Judith Whelan appointed editor of the Sydney Morning Herald as masthead achieves record readership

Judith Whelan has been appointed editor of The Sydney Morning Herald as part of a wide-ranging editorial restructure on the eve of the masthead’s 185th birthday.
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Ms Whelan’s appointment was confirmed as the Herald achieved a record 1.2 million lead over its nearest rival as the most widely read publication in Australia.

The Herald grew its total monthly audience by 9 per cent to 5.3 million according to the latest Enhanced Media Metrics Australia report. The figures, which record readership across print publications and web devices, push the Herald further ahead of The Daily Telegraph, which saw its total audience decline 4.3 per cent to 4.2 million.

The Herald’s editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir, said Ms Whelan was the clear choice for the editor’s role. She would oversee the implementation of the restructure, aimed at strengthening the Herald’s significant advances in digital journalism.

Ms Whelan is currently the Herald’s news director, where she leads all editorial operations.

However, as editor, her role will expand to take on an added digital focus, on top of extra responsibility for the masthead’s direction and its audience goals.

“Judith is an inspirational and driven newsroom leader who understands implicitly the Herald’s core mission to provide quality, independent and original journalism to an increasingly digital audience,” Mr Goodsir said. “I am thrilled with this appointment”.

A former editor of Good Weekend magazine, Ms Whelan has edited the Saturday edition as well as being a features editor, and a health and transport reporter.  Next month, the Herald will celebrate 185 years in newspaper publishing.

During the past 12 months, the Herald grew its web audience by 17.3 per cent to 3.5 million, while driving mobile and tablet 16.3 per cent higher to 1.4 million. Its print audience slipped 8.6 per cent to 2.1 million over the same period.

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Green slip insurance shake-up on the cards for UberX drivers

CTP: Authorities want to create a level playing field in NSW. Photo: Fairfax Victor Dominello: “It is important that CTP rules and prices … better reflect the changing dynamics of this sector.” Photo: Orlando Chiodo
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Drivers using their cars for ride-sharing services such as UberX could be forced to declare it to authorities and be charged higher insurance premiums under options being considered to regulate the emerging industry.

Having legalised services such as UberX and Lyft, the NSW government is set to shake up the compulsory third party (CTP) insurance scheme to create a level playing field with taxis and hire cars.

Minister for Better Regulation Victor Dominello will on Thursday unveil six options being considered.

They include: creating a new CTP class for ride-share vehicles; bringing them into the same class as taxis and hire cars; and deregulating the area to allow insurers to determine premiums based on risk.

The options paper says it could be a challenge to enforce disclosure by ride-share vehicles if they were brought into a new class. Deregulation could deter operators from working in high-risk areas or at high-risk times of the day, it says.

Also under consideration is bringing all taxis, hire cars and ride-share vehicles into the same basic passenger vehicle class.

Taxis pay about $7000 a year for CTP insurance, compared with $600-$700 for private passenger vehicles.

The paper says this option would bring a big reduction in taxi premiums – and potentially lower fares – but an annual premium increase of “at least” $18 for private cars in metropolitan Sydney.

The government will also look at imposing a new levy on all point-to-point vehicles based on the risks associated with the time of day and where the car is hired, to fund extra insurer costs.

It will also contemplate not changing vehicle classes but allowing insurers more flexibility to set premiums based on risk.

Common to the options is that owners of ride-share cars would for the first time have to declare the vehicles are being used for that purpose at the point of registration or insurance application.

Mr Dominello told Fairfax Media the review would “clarify the CTP price and regulatory disparities that currently exist between taxis, hire cars and ride-share services”.

“It is important that CTP rules and prices are fair and better reflect the changing dynamics of this sector.”

NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King welcomed the review.

“We would be looking to a solution that has point-to-point vehicles in the same class and incentives for operators to perform better by reducing risk of accident and thus attract a better premium as a consequence,” he said.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company looked forward to seeing the detail but it was “important to remember that the primary use of these vehicles is still for personal use”.

“Recognising the different ways people use ride sharing to earn a flexible income will be key as we move through these discussions,” she said.

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DEXUS and ICPF slug it out over Investa Office

Deutsche Bank Place is one of the towers owned by Investa Office Fund. Photo: Michele Mossop The battle for control of the Investa Office Fund has intensified with the independent directors and experts endorsing the $2.5 billion DEXUS​ offer, while the current manager has rejected the valuations contained in the offer documents.
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The two-pronged situation for IOF unitholders of accepting the DEXUS offer or staying with Investa Commercial Property Fund, as the current manager, was further muddied with suggestions that rival Mirvac is working on a counter-offer with at least two parties, including the Chinese Investment Corporation.

IOF unitholders will vote on the DEXUS proposal on Friday, April 8, in Sydney. Morgan Stanley has a direct stake of 8.9 per cent and it is still unclear if it can vote on the deal.

The speculation of a new bid had IOF units rise yesterday 12¢ to $4.11, and DEXUS rose 0.8¢ to $7.76.

After a long year since Morgan Stanley kicked off the sale of the Investa platform, the listed IOF released its 344-page explanatory memorandum on Tuesday, in which its independent board committee unanimously recommended the cash-and-scrip DEXUS offer.

Peter Rowe, an IOF independent director, said the process to sell IOF has been “thorough and exhausting and the DEXUS offer was considered in the best interests of IOF unitholders”.

“Since this all started, we have had one thing on our minds, which is to get the best outcome for IOF unitholders,” Mr Rowe said.

The proposed DEXUS deal was also given the tick of approval from KPMG, the independent experts to IOF. “KPMG Corporate Finance has concluded the DEXUS proposal is fair and reasonable to, and in best interests of, IOF unitholders in the absence of a superior proposal,” the report says.

Rival DEXUS launched a $0.8229 cash and 0.424 DEXUS securities per IOF unit offer for the listed Investa Office in late December as the third tranche in the sale of the whole Investa platform by Morgan Stanley.

The other parts of the Morgan Stanley sale saw the Chinese Investment Corp pay $2.5 billion for the portfolio of IOF buildings, Proprium Capital Partners bought Investa Land for $340 million, while the unlisted ICPF is now the manager of IOF.

If successful, the merged DEXUS-IOF entity will create a $24 billion office-focused real estate investment trust that will dwarf its peers.

DEXUS will increase its share of the national office market to about 7.4 per cent from 2.6 per cent in 2009, or about $17.5 billion, and will own assets such as Deutsche Bank Place at 126 Philip Street, Sydney, and 567 Collins Street, Melbourne.

In Sydney it would command about 11 per cent of the premium-grade office skyscrapers.

ICPF chief executive Jonathan Callaghan said: “We have reviewed the EM outlining the Dexus Proposal”.

“It reaffirms our view that the Dexus proposal is not compelling and undervalues IOF, with minimal premium for control. In the coming days Investa will present a choice for IOF unitholders to consider ahead of the vote on 8 April that will support a strong case for unitholders to vote ‘no’ to the Dexus proposal,” Mr Callaghan said.

According to the offer documents, the DEXUS proposal delivers IOF unitholders annualised 2016 funds from operations earnings accretion of 17.5 per cent per IOF unit as well as significant diversification and scale benefits, and exposure to additional revenue streams with enhanced growth opportunities within the DEXUS business.

But institutional investors, some of whom have been lukewarm on the DEXUS deal, have disputed this, saying that in the independent expert report it states because the DEXUS share price was influenced by the security buyback program, which was suspended on December 7 last year before the offer was proposed, “our valuation analysis has focused on post-announcement market prices of DEXUS securities”.

The investors said that based on this statement, the premium to net tangible assets was a negative 0.2 per cent.

In response to the document release,  DEXUS chief executive Darren Steinberg said it was an attractive transaction for DEXUS security holders and a “compelling proposition for IOF unitholders, both financially and strategically”.

“It brings together two complementary portfolios and provides the opportunity for IOF unitholders to participate in the immediate benefits associated with an investment in DEXUS,” Mr Steinberg said.

“In addition to ownership of a quality Australian property portfolio, IOF unitholders will benefit from our established third-party funds management and trading businesses.

“The merger also enables IOF to achieve an internalised management structure, benefiting from an experienced and stable team with a proven track record and established, efficient systems and processes.”

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APA lashes out at tougher controls as gas supply gap looms

ACCC chief Rod Sims plans to closely monitor the pipeline industry. Photo: Michele MossopPipeline major APA has roundly rejected criticism from the competition watchdog it is wielding undue market power, as it emerged the collapse in the oil price has slashed exploration activity with a warning of a possible lack of gas supplies in less than three years.
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Additional gas reserves will need to be developed by 2019 to “maintain long-term gas supply adequacy” in eastern and south-eastern Australia, the managing director of the Australian Energy Markets Operator, Matt Zema, warned.

“This means that currently undeveloped gas reserves, including those reported as contingent resources and possible reserves, will be required to ‘come online’ to meet forecast demand as early as 2019.”

The slump in the oil price has resulted in a collapse in oil and gas exploration, according to a survey by EnergyQuest, while the start-up of gas export projects in Queensland could lead to a “supply gap” of about 80 petajoules of gas in 2020, rising to about 170 petajoules by 2025. Australia’s annual gas demand is near 700 petajoules.

On Wednesday, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission head Rod Sims warned the concentration of power in the gas pipeline industry may be adversely affecting gas supplies, foreshadowing tighter regulation of gas pipeline operations.

“We’re big, there’s no question about that,” APA boss Mick McCormack said in response to criticism from the ACCC. “No claim of market power has ever been made against us. The claim of market power is a very serious matter.

“I run a commercial enterprise There is no profit for me in not selling capacity” in APA pipelines.

“The test here isn’t whether the price should be lower, but whether the price is ‘fair and reasonable’ and how it was arrived at.”

But Mr Sims said the lack of competition means “this is a market where market power can be exercised and where the potential impact of monopoly pricing can be significant.”

The ACCC estimates APA controls 50 per cent of the industry. Regulation of natural monopolies such as pipelines is accepted in other areas of the economy and in many other countries “even in the most free-market-supportive ones like the United States”, Mr Sims said.

“To argue regulation is the panacea is ridiculous,” Mr McCormack said. “We structure our tariffs on a commercial basis.”

After the industry has spent $30 billion developing a national gas grid for the past two decades, “the proposal the ACCC seems to be putting is to recommend regulation”.

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Dominant dingoes keep their bite despite cross-breeding

A 3D skull reconstructed from a CT scan superimposed on an image of a dingo. Photo: Karen Black/modified by Will Parr/UNSW Can you tell the difference? The pink skull is the dingo, the purple skull is the hybrid and the green skull is the wild dog breed. Photo: UNSW
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Dingoes keep the distinctive shape of their heads despite crossbreeding and this is good news for native ecosystems and animal diversity.

That’s a conclusion drawn from a new study published today in Evolutionary Biology.

Led by Will Parr at the University of NSW, the study concludes that the dingo skull shape is dominant compared with imported species.

Dr Parr told Fairfax Media that “the dingo has a morphological dominance and likely that’s there because of an underlying genetic dominance”.

Further, the study shows the hybrid offspring of dingoes and imported dogs quickly revert to “dingo cranial morphology”.

In other words, the dingo keeps its bite even as it breeds with imports.

This is probably good news for native species and ecosystems, Dr Parr said.

One of Dr Parr’s co-authors, Associate Professor Mike Letnic, also of UNSW, said: “What dingoes do in the wild is they help to keep numbers of foxes, feral cats and kangaroos down. That has benefits for smaller native mammals in the ecosystem such as bandicoots, bilbies and native rodents.”

By keeping their distinctive head shapes while interbreeding, they are more likely to do this successfully, maintaining their distinctive ecological role as primary predator.

Dr Parr said: “If crossbreeding had affected the shape of the dingo skull, it would have changed what it could eat and this would have knock-on effects for other species.”

He said imported species have recessive structural traits. “This is the result of selective breeding to maintain breed standards,” he said.

Just as well for the dingo and other species such as the bilby and bandicoot.

“Cranial morphology has evolved to suit [the dingo] environment. So if you crossbreed it with domesticated dogs with very different shapes, you could change the shape of the dingo’s skull, and therefore change what it is able to eat,” Dr Parr said.

“This could in turn change its ecological role and how it affects the environment around it.”

By having a dominant skull shape, the impact of crossbreeding on the food chain is minimised.

Dr Letnic’s early study on the ecological role of the dingo in 2013 won a Eureka Prize for science.

At the time of that study his co-author, Euan Ritchie of Deakin University, wrote: “Our research shows that dingoes are key elements in the struggle to reduce damage caused by foxes, feral cats and even kangaroos.

“Ecosystems with dingoes have better vegetation and more diverse and abundant populations of small native mammals. In fact, a good dose of our native dog can sustain biodiversity and help land managers control invasive species.”

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Teresa Gambaro quits: LNP figures blast ‘dummy spit’

Teresa Gambaro has announced she won’t recontest the seat of Brisbane at the next federal election. Photo: Andrew Meares National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans is the early favourite to win LNP preselection for Brisbane. Photo: Supplied
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While former premier Campbell Newman was considered an unlikely starter for LNP preselection in Brisbane, former state MP Robert Cavallucci (right) was considering his options. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Senior Liberal National Party figures have slammed Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro’s decision to quit politics at the next election, calling it a “dummy spit” that will hand the seat to Labor.

But Ms Gambaro’s office rejected that assertion, referring Fairfax Media to a statement she issued on Wednesday that stated she was leaving politics to spend more time with her family.

A spokesman for Ms Gambaro said that was all she would say on the matter.

Ms Gambaro, who held Brisbane with a margin of just 3.15 per cent, had faced a spirited Labor campaign spearheaded by its army major candidate, Pat O’Neill, prior to her retirement announcement on Wednesday.

One LNP source said Ms Gambaro, who had 15 years of parliamentary experience, was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on a promotion in two successive front bench reshuffles.

“She went into meltdown last year when she didn’t get a promotion and it happened again this year (when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed his new ministry),” the source said.

“The timing of this is appalling.

“Brisbane was not in play before this, but now she’s all but handing it to Labor.

“She’s f—ed the party, crucified the party, because there’s no time for a new candidate to get the name recognition.”

Another LNP source described Ms Gambaro’s decision as a “massive dummy spit”.

“Teresa was telling everyone in the party how she had the name recognition and was the only person who could win Brisbane,” the source said.

“This is just self-interest of the highest order.

“We’ve got nobody palatable with name recognition to win the seat.

“Campbell Newman has the name recognition, but he’s not palatable.”

Comment was sought from Mr Newman, but the former Queensland premier was considered by party sources to be an unlikely candidate, given his stated enjoyment of post-political life.

In her statement, Ms Gambaro said: “The time has come to be available to my family and to pursue other opportunities.”

Mr O’Neill, the Labor candidate, said Ms Gambaro’s decision to bow out of the campaign would not affect his campaign.

“This has never been a fight against Teresa Gambaro, it’s been a fight against what we see as an increasingly out-of-touch LNP government whose values aren’t shared by the people of Brisbane,” he said.

“…I’ve always got along well with Teresa and I wish her well in whatever she does next, her and her family.

“She’s always been nice to me and my mum, when my mum was principal at New Farm State School, but no, this doesn’t change the campaign.”

The attention will now turn to who will replace Ms Gambaro on the ballot paper for the LNP.

National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans was understood to be the frontrunner for preselection.

Mr Evans had launched a preselection challenge against Ms Gambaro last year, but was eventually persuaded to abandon his bid.

It was understood then-prime minister Tony Abbott’s office was instrumental in persuading Mr Evans not to challenge.

One of the LNP sources said they felt “sorry” for Mr Evans, because even though he would be a “very good candidate”, time was running out for him to gain name recognition in the electorate.

Mr Evans did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Wednesday.

Former Brisbane Central MP Robert Cavallucci, who lost his state seat at last year’s state election, was another possible contender.

When asked whether he would seek LNP preselection, Mr Cavallucci said he was “not ruling it out at this stage”, but was yet to discuss the matter with his family.

Mr Cavallucci was the first non-Labor candidate to win Brisbane Central – which was held by former premier Peter Beattie between 1989 and 2006 – since the electorate was established in 1977.

Fairfax Media understands former Young LNP president Luke Barnes, Ms Gambaro’s chief-of-staff, has made several calls to party members to sound them out about running.

“Luke’s a political animal, but I don’t think he’ll get the support,” one of the sources said.

Another source, however, said they expected Ms Gambaro to support Mr Barnes should he run.

Comment has been sought from Mr Barnes.

Mr Barnes was central to one of the most colourful moments of the 2015 state election campaign, when he called the police in the lead-up to Iain Fogerty’s arrest.

Mr Fogerty, whose public nuisance charge was thrown out of court, had been standing next to LNP campaigners wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.

Former state local government minister David Crisafulli, who has moved to south-east Queensland since he lost his north Queensland seat last year, ruled himself out.

“You will never see my name on a federal ballot paper,” he said.

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Weekend penalty rate protesters take to Eden-Monaro MP’s Queanbeyan office

Union delegates are concerned about any change to Sunday penalty rates. Photo: Rob BanksQueanbeyan shift workers and union members protested plans to change penalty rates outside Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy’s office on Wednesday morning.
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The group, led by United Voice ACT secretary Lyndal Ryan, said any cuts to weekend penalty rates would have a negative impact on their weekly budget and inevitably, the local community.

Protests have become a semi-frequent sight outside the Queanbeyan office in recent months with hospitality, cleaning, childcare, hospital and education staff growing concerned.

In December the Productivity Commission’s final report into Australia’s workplace relations system recommended the lowering of Sunday penalty rates for hospitality workers.

The report also called for penalty rates on public holidays to remain untouched along with the minimum wage.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja broke ranks with his colleagues after the report and called on the government to adopt the recommendations.

Ms Ryan said Dr Hendy needed to understand the importance of penalty rates for hospitality workers as Australia’s first assistant finance minister.

“Weekend rates do not fully compensate them for this but they do make a huge difference, particularly for such low paid workers,” she said.

One hospitality worker and Queanbeyan resident, Bryan Kidman, said he could not survive financially without weekend rates.

The union pointed to 2015 research by the McKell Institute that found any reduction in penalty rates would likely to result in a negative impact on the emotional wellbeing and security of workers

“It is estimated that retail and hospitality workers in rural Australia would lose between $370 million and $1.55 billion each year, depending on the extent of the cut to penalty rates and the level of local ownership of the retail stores,” the report said.

Late last year, United Voice delegates protested outside the office after a poll found eight in 10 Canberrans supported penalty rates.

The poll of 1183 people, conducted by ReachTel on behalf of Unions ACT, showed about one in 10 was opposed to penalty rates while the remainder were yet to make up their minds.

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ANU agitates for national database to stop credential fraud and reputation damage

ANU Deputy Vice Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Australian National University has called for a national database to stop graduates from committing credential fraud while seeking employment or further study.
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The university’s deputy vice chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington said the proposal was supported by the country’s top universities and would be discussed at a national conference in Canberra this week.

“The project will help fight fraud, will allow third parties to search and verify academic documents and allows students to add a secure link to their qualifications from anywhere in the world,” she said.

Ms Hughes-Warrington said the university was “a strong supporter” of the initiative proposed by Universities Australia, which has also garnered support from 18 other institutions.

Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said it was “vitally important that anyone who says that they have a degree actually holds that degree”.

She said the database would ensure “those individuals who seek to dishonestly represent their past academic performance are prevented from doing so”.

“We must ensure that the integrity of Australia’s higher education qualifications are protected,” she said.

According to Universities Australia, the project is expected to launch by next year and will eventually include academic transcripts from New Zealand, China, the US and the UK.

The proposal has also been welcomed by recruitment agencies that have reported candidates lying about their previous salary, grades and experience.

Jim Roy, regional director of Hays in Canberra, said a national database would assist employers in their search for talent given “instances of people making occasional embellishments in their CV”.

“Employers want to ensure they employ the most suitable candidate, capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of the role,” he said.

“So from this perspective a national database would also help an employer confirm that they employ a person who has attained the necessary qualifications.”

Ms Hughes-Warrington said the ANU had already introduced measures to reduce academic fraud, such as an online service hosted by the university that enables recruiters and employers to verify documents.

“In addition the university also provides back to source authentication checking whereby we will verify upon request that a particular degree, diploma or certificate has been conferred upon an individual by the university,” she said.

“The university also has a publicly available website that can be used to search for graduates of ANU to verify the award conferred, and the date that it was conferred.”

The national database is aligned with the Groningen Declaration, an international group of university representatives hoping to increase the academic and professional mobility of students.

Anthony McClaren, chief executive of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, welcomed the database and the collaboration between universities.

“Integrity in credentials and certification of qualifications is of vital importance to students, providers and employers,” he said.

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World Science Festival Brisbane 2016: Questions abound in learning extravaganza

Street Science! encourages the public to get hands on with science. Photo: World Science Festival New York Brian Greene’s theatrical work ‘Light Falls’ explores the highs and lows of Albert Einstein.World Science Festival (supplied by Queensland Museum) Photo: World Science Festival New York
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A scene from one of the World Science Festival events in New York. Photo: World Science Festival New York

Science is all about questions.

Are humans on the verge of destroying our planet? Is creativity linked to insanity? And just when are we finally going to be whizzing around space like The Jetsons?

These are just a smattering of the riddles some of the world’s greatest scientific minds will be attempting to answer in Brisbane this week.

How is it that two co-existing theories that perfectly describe the way our universe works are completely incompatible with each other? Can we save the Great Barrier Reef from a devastating death?

Are robots inevitably going to kill us all? That’s another conundrum experts will be tackling before the World Science Festival’s inaugural visit to the Queensland capital wraps on Sunday.

Did Matt Damon really “science the shit out of this” in The Martian or was it all Hollywood hocus pocus? The festival has an actual astronaut and a NASA scientist on hand waiting to answer just that query.

A little more than 100 years since Albert Einstein revolutionised our view of the world with his general theory of relativity and just a month after the discovery of gravitational waves finally proved the existence of the final piece of his puzzle, the German physicist’s towering mind dominates proceedings.

But as always in science, the biggest question of them all is still unanswered.

How do we unite our understanding of the very big (general relativity) with the very small (quantum physics), the two widely accepted, individually accurate but completely incompatible explanations of how the universe works?

“Although relativity and quantum physics aren’t compatible, the data we’re seeing is proving that both theories are spot on,” prize-winning astrophysicist Professor Tamara Davis said, in the lead-up to Saturday’s discussion of Einstein’s legacy.

“It’s difficult to work out what we do know, versus what we just assume we know because we haven’t found evidence to the contrary.”

On Wednesday night, the festival opened with Light Falls: Space, Time and an Obsession of Einstein, a theatrical production bringing the science to life.

That spirit, a push to make science interesting again and open the mind of even the most jaded student, envelops the whole festival.

At the weekend, Street Science! will take over South Brisbane as kids learn about cool jobs such as palaeontology, zookeeping and forensic science, create mini explosions in their quest to discover atomic theory and try to solve ocean pollution.

“The ability to make science real for students at a really young age is so important, especially really young kids – they’re sponges,” Professor Miller said.

“We want people thinking about science, talking about science and getting inspired by science.”

Renowned science communicator and festival co-founder Brian Greene brought the festival to Brisbane from its home in New York for the first time this year. In return, we named a spider after him.

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Accused killer Glen McNamara used counter-surveillance techniques after Jamie Gao murder, court told

Glen McNamara leaves the NSW supreme court in February. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Jamie Gao was last seen by his girlfriend on May 18, 2014. Photo: Facebook
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Glen McNamara’s daughter gives evidenceMcNamara: ‘He said he would kill you girls’

Three days after former police officer Glen McNamara allegedly murdered a Sydney student he appeared to use counter-surveillance techniques while driving home from the pub, a court has heard.

Detective Sergeant Adam Bird told the NSW Supreme Court that, having been given the task of keeping tabs on Mr McNamara’s movements on May 23, 2014, he followed the 56-year-old home from the Crown Hotel in Revesby.

“His actions in driving were consistent with counter-surveillance techniques,” Detective Bird told the court on Wednesday.

He said the former police officer had driven around the block when there was no apparent reason to do so, including going down a quiet laneway.

“The reason you would do that [when conducting counter-surveillance] is because a laneway is quiet and usually the only people driving down there have a specific reason to be there.”

Detective Bird said when he realised the former officer was using counter-surveillance techniques he stopped following him.

The incident occurred three days after Mr McNamara and fellow former police officer Roger Rogerson, 74, allegedly shot 20-year-old Mr Gao twice in the chest at close range in a south-west Sydney storage shed.

Mr Gao’s body was found wrapped in blue plastic and a silver surfboard cover floating off the coast at Cronulla on May 26.

The Crown alleges Mr McNamara and Mr Rogerson were involved in a joint criminal enterprise to kill or cause serious bodily injury to Mr Gao and rob him of a large quantity of the drug ice, which they had allegedly promised to buy from him.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and commercial drug supply.

Later on Tuesday, a crime scene expert, Phillip Austin, told the court there was no conclusive evidence of blood in the storage shed.

An initial luminol test had found possible traces of blood on the floor of the garage near the roller door, and on the back rest of an office chair stored in the shed, he said. However, subsequent testing had been negative for blood in these locations.

Earlier, Detective Bird, who was also involved in a search of Mr Rogerson’s home, rejected suggestions that gun-shot residue found on clothing owned by Mr Rogerson could have been the result of accidental evidence contamination by police.

“I’ve viewed the search warrant video and it does not happen,” he said.

The case continues.

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