Other stories

Why the World War II invasion of Rabaul has been left out of our national story While Kokoda continues to loom large in the minds of Australians, Rabaul hardly resonates. But relatives of the nearly 2,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who were left behind when Japan invaded the island of New Britain have not forgotten what happened in 1942. At the time, New Guinea was an Australian territory, and Rabaul was an important town filled with Australian soldiers, officials and planters. Its fall may have been Australia’s biggest military and civilian disaster of World War II, so why isn’t it discussed today? (Earshot, ABC RN, 11 November 2017) Listen 

Let’s talk about dying How much control would you like to have over how and when you die?  Val has already bought herself a coffin; she keeps it downstairs. Val’s a member of a group on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast that meets in secret for coffee and scones and to chat about voluntary euthanasia, should death come too slowly and painfully. (Earshot, ABC RN, 27 April 2015)
Back in the news: The time has come for NSW to legalise euthanasia. (Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 2016) Denton launches euthanasia lobby group (SBS, 10 August 2016)

A Queensland disaster uncovered – Cyclone Mahina An overview of the archival research involved in reconstructing Australia’s deadliest natural disaster: the Bathurst Bay ‘hurricane’ of 1899. (BDM Family History Journal, Edition 17, Department of Justice and Attorney General, Queensland Government.)

Living in the bite zone The huge jump in Ross River virus cases in Queensland and NSW is a sign of things to come. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 19 April 2015)

Home ownership dreaming As of 1 January 2015, residents of Indigenous towns in Queensland have the option to buy their homes and convert communal land to freehold. Many want ‘the great Australian dream’, but it will extinguish native title and may expose communities to the open real estate market for the first time. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 1 February 2015)

Learning from Forgotten Epidemics One of the premises of pandemic plans is that the public will cooperate with authorities. How well we cooperate with quarantine and rationing, queuing at surgeries and being ordered to stay at home will determine how well the country copes. (Issues magazine, Australasian Science, December 2014)

Rabaul volcano erupts Last week, Mount Tavurvur in Papua New Guinea rumbled back into life, 20 years after its last big eruption. (ABC RN Breakfast, 2 September 2014)

The great Tasmanian fox hunt A discredited story about fox cubs being released in Tasmania triggered a decade-long hunt for the predators. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 4 May 2014)
Back in the news: Fox hunt: Tasmania’s multi-million-dollar program likely based on hoax, leaked report finds (ABC-TV 7.30 30 Nov 2016)

The World Record Storm Surge and the Most Intense Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone: New Evidence and Modeling New evidence suggests the central pressure of TC Mahina was 880 hPa, which may be a new southern hemisphere record. This storm is able to produce a maximum surge of approximately 9 m and a total inundation of 13 m. (Jonathan Nott, Camilla Green, Ian Townsend, and Jeffrey Callaghan, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2013)
Back in the news: Cyclone Mahina: the forgotten tale of Australia’s deadliest natural disaster (Herald Sun, 8 December 2016)

VLAD the bikie jailer Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act – VLAD – is designed to eradicate criminal bikie gangs, but its critics say the new law will sweep up innocent people as well, and is already being used to harass. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 2 February 2014)
Back in the news: Queensland’s anti-bikie VLAD law to be scrapped, bikies to be given control orders (ABC Radio, 5 April 2016)

The barbecue stopper An aggressive mosquito that’s spread a crippling virus through Asia is now being found at Australia’s border. The chikungunya virus is already being brought home by Australian tourists, and public health authorities are worried about a major outbreak if the Asian tiger mosquito becomes established. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 21 July 2013)
Back in the news, and another virus: Scientists fear spread of Zika through foreign mosquitoes (AM, ABC Radio, 14 December 2016)

The dogs that ate a sheep industry Wild dogs are killing the wool industry in Queensland. The dingo fence is useless, poison baiting isn’t working and the law that says land owners must control wild dogs isn’t enforced. Now dog numbers have reached epidemic proportions. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 19 May 2013)
Back in the news: Strange Fruit. The Dingo trees of Western Queensland (Bob Gosford, Crikey, 12 October 2014)

Don’t drink the water A third of Tasmania’s town water systems don’t meet national drinking water standards. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 31 March 2013)
Back in the news: Water authority concedes north-east Tasmnaia’s water supply may have been contaminated for years (ABC TV 7.30, 24 April 2015)

Toxic mine water The Dee River in Queensland is being killed by toxic water from an old gold mine. Mount Morgan is one of thousands of abandoned and unregulated mine sites, many of which are leaking contaminated ‘legacy water’ into river catchments. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 17 February 2013)
Back in the news: Tests reveal “shocking” level of heavy metals in Dee River (The Morning Bulletin, 20 May 2014). Industry insider warns taxpayers may foot bill for mine rehabilitation unless government, industry step up (ABC TV Landline, 19 September 2015).

Lead poisoning: a silent epidemic There’s growing evidence that lead poisoning shaves IQ points in children and has an insidious effect on behaviour. While experts debate safe exposure, a boom in home renovations could increase the risks. The suburbs of Queensland flooded earlier this year are lead-dust hot spots but residents haven’t been warned. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 23 December 2012)
Winner 2013 Australian Government Eureka Prize for Science Journalism
Winner 2012 Queensland Clarion Award for Health and Wellness reporting

The AIDS Generation US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has promised an AIDS-free generation. HIV-AIDS might no longer be the death sentence it used to be, but many millions of people are still living with the virus. Rear Vision looks back on the origins of HIV-AIDS and the struggle to contain it. (Rear Vision, ABC RN, 12 August 2012)

Guest Workers Gina Rinehart and others in the mining industry want to plug the skills shortage with guest workers. Modern Australia’s been built with migrant workers, but it’s not often that we’ve sent them back when they’ve done the job. (Rear Vision, ABC RN, 29 July 2012)

Stem cell tourism People are travelling the world and spending a small fortune on unproven stem cell therapies that are illegal in Australia. Clinics in some countries offer stem cell injections to treat diseases that are otherwise considered incurable. The science is moving quickly, but the process of ensuring safe and effective treatments takes time and a lot of money. In the meantime untested therapies pose major risks to patients and to the future of research. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 10 June 2012)

Political Micro-Targeting Political parties constantly narrow their campaigns to focus on key marginal seats, and they have to do it more cheaply and efficiently. It’s becoming harder to convince wary voters and the parties are looking for more direct approaches. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 11 March 2012)

Gun ownership increase In 1996, in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre, Prime Minister John Howard asked Australians to hand in their guns. Figures obtained by Background Briefing indicate that the hundreds of thousands of guns destroyed in buybacks since Port Arthur have been more than replaced by new imports. (ABC RN Breakfast, 14 November 2011)

Guns are back Gun clubs report lots of new members, hunting is cool, and handguns are gangland chic. The hundreds of thousands of guns destroyed in buybacks since Port Arthur have been more than replaced by new ones. But guns are highly political and the national system for monitoring gun ownership is a mess. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 13 November 2011)
Back in the news: Number of guns back at pre-Port Arthur level (Daily Telegraph, 1 August 2013) Port Arthur: Australia has more guns than before massacre, University of Sydney research shows (ABC Radio, 28 April 2016)

Water bugs Every year more than 200 people in Queensland get very sick with a nasty, little understood, hard-to-treat type of bacteria. Other states report none. Why? Our water supply is now so complex, things are overlooked. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 24 July 2011)
Winner 2012 Queensland Clarion Award for Health and Wellness reporting

Fatigue factor Fatigue has become a dangerous side-effect of 24/7 living and nowhere is the danger more acute than in the transportation industry – a frightening number of airline pilots as well as train, truck and car drivers admit to falling asleep on the job. But it’s almost impossible to know how many fatal accidents are caused by fatigue. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 29 May 2011)

Mismanaging disasters Nature’s forces – floods, cyclones, fires and this week the earthquake in Christchurch – won’t stop, yet we still live on flood plains, in the bush, on the beach and in earthquake zones. Rescue services struggle. Communications fail. Insurance companies spread the cost. It comes back to educating the people. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 27 February 2011)

The case of the missing $35 million train Train buffs will remember a train that once ran from Sydney to Cairns called the Great South Pacific Express, a luxury train modelled on Europe’s famous Orient Express. The train ran for only four years, until it lost so much money that it was taken off the tracks in 2003. And then it vanished. Now the case of the missing train has been solved. The Great Southern Pacific Express has been sitting for the best part of seven years in a shed west of Brisbane gathering dust. (ABC RN Breakfast, 5 October 2010)
Back in the news: The mystery of the multi million dollar luxury train gathering dust in a Queensland shed. (ABC TV 7.30, 16 November 2010)

Trains do it better All political parties agree that trains do it better, but who will make it happen? Meanwhile, thousands of trucks are about to churn up the roads trying to get a huge wheat harvest to city ports, and two million tourists choke Byron Bay with cars. The rest of the world – even France – is joining its regional areas with high speed trains, and it works. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 3 October 2010)

Culture wars at CSIRO When scientists – who believe passionately in independence, in pure research, and in sharing information – are asked to conform to business plans and commercial-in-confidence clauses, there are bound to be tensions. The CSIRO is going through massive culture change: less pure science, more social science, and industry can wag the tail. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 15 August 2010)
Back in the news: CSIRO facing more job cuts, as 350 workers to go (news.com.au, 4 February 2016) Climate science to be gutted as CSIRO swings jobs axe (SMH, 4 February 2016)

Gas rush Beneath the rich farming soils of the Darling Downs there’s a gaseous gold mine. Mobile drilling rigs dot the landscape as energy companies rush to secure the next big export contracts – for natural gas. Farmers fear it will contaminate an even more valuable resource – water. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 20 June 2010)

The privacy paradox Generational change and the power of social media has dramatically altered notions of privacy and as personal data files expand, our lives are going public by default. Will our data footprints strip us bare, or set us free? (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 16 May 2010)

Controlling corruption Out of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the National Integrity System was born, and is now used by governments and authorities in most countries around the world. The latest is Kurdistan. Corruption, like death and taxes, is inevitable. Ian Townsend explores ways in which it can be managed and minimised. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 27 December 2009)

Housing for millions Planning for happy cities, when you’re also jamming in millions more people, is politically tricky. Urban planners say they can make better communities with more people, but the NIMBYs don’t believe it. Like it or not, high density apartment living is around the corner. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 22 November 2009)

Self inflicted sickness? There are debates and discussion about who should foot the bill if we get sick with something we could have prevented if we had lived a better lifestyle; smoking, drinking, eating too much. It’s tricky territory. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 2 August 2009)
Winner 2010 Eureka Prize for Science Journalism Top scientists celebrated at the Eureka Awards http://archive.cosmosmagazine.com/news/top-scientists-celebrated-eurekas/ (Cosmos Magazine, 17 August 2010)

Synthetic life and gene mining Not only may we create new life forms, but it’s possible to say what may go wrong in the lifetime of our present genetic makeup. Do we want to know, and what are the financial and psychological ramifications? (Future Tense, ABC RN, 18 June 2009)

Crisis for children There’s an epidemic of child abuse and it’s worst in Queensland. Poverty’s fuelling it, but it’s sparked by something deeper. To stop it, we need to turn our social policies upside down. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 9 November 2008)
Winner 2009 Australian Human Rights Award for Radio Journalism: Awards showcase watershed year for protecting human rights in Australia
Finalist 2009 Australian Walkley Awards: Walkley Awards finalists announced

The Weather Man A Portrait of Clement Wragge. (QWeekend, The Courier-Mail, 4-5 October 2008)

Hendra and the bats Bats carry many of the nasty viruses, even SARS, Ebola, Nipah and Hendra. Scientists think bats may be using these deadly viruses in a war with other species, including horses and man. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 31 August 2008)
In the news: Contagion (2011)

Bury, burn or compost? There’s a boom in funerals around the corner as the Boomers face mortality, but neither cemeteries nor crematoria are eco-friendly. The business of burials is beginning to adapt, and so are their future customers. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 20 July 2008)

Lost Men The issues surrounding the crash sites of WW2 warplanes that are also the resting place for the aircrew (Aerogram, Journal of the Friends of the RAAF Museum, June-September 2008)

The allergy generation and the EpiPen epidemic Allergies to everything from dust, to cats, to peanuts are hitting young children hard, and doctors don’t really understand why or what to do. Long held theories are changing, and there’s great confusion. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 27 April 2008)

Sports wars While the success of the 27-year-old Australian Institute of Sport has been the envy of other nations, the expertise it has bred is being used against us, and Australia risks falling behind in the sports science arms race. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 16 March 2008)

Lost planes, lost men Hundreds of Australian war planes crashed in Queensland, PNG, and the Pacific during WW2. Many haven’t been found, and the remains of their crew still lie where they crashed. There’s a global trade in souveniring these wrecks, and surprising things are found in the jungles, the mountains and the seas. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 3 February 2008)
Winner 2008 Queensland Clarion Awards for Best radio Production
In the news: Plane Wrong (60 Minutes, 2016)

Testing times for schools There’s a new kind of primary school coming — ready or not. Bigger schools, different ways of learning, more special interest groups in class. Not just the three Rs and computers, but character and your place in society taught in all schools across the country, and a chaplain to help with behaviour and mental health. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 18 November 2007)

On a wing and a prayer If the next big plague hits, how will we behave? (Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2007)

Your money dot con No one’s telling how much of our money is being stolen through the Internet because no one wants us to lose confidence in the system. The banks are making so much money out of it, they prefer to wear the costs or push them down to the customer. In the meantime, everyone has a story and global criminals are stalking our accounts, our phones and our PCs. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 24 June 2007)

Privatising Palm Island It’s a tropical paradise worth many millions on the open market. The debate is intense about how the indigenous people will fare when new laws allowing privatisation of land open up a different world. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 1 April 2007)

Learning from forgotten epidemics (Griffith Review, Edition 17: Staying Alive, August 2007)

Bird flu: risks, laws and rights Scientists, lawyers, politicians, security forces—everyone’s walking a fine line with avian flu, between the rights of the individual and the rights of the wider public. When a pandemic happens each of us will be on our own, as the authorities look at the big picture. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 16 July 2006)
Finalist 2007 Eureka Prize for Science Journalism

Sick Sperm Syndrome Mounting evidence of increased damage to sperm raises questions about effects on future generations. Women’s fertility is well understood, but evolution – genetic variability – depends on the male so research has important implications. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 19 September 2004)
Winner 2005 Eureka Prize for Health and Medical Research Journalism
Winner Best Coverage of Research & Technology (All Media) Queensland Clarion Awards

Trading in Tarantulas As big as your fist, they’ve got beards full of bacteria, fangs like a snake, and a nasty temper. Thousands are hunted and sold as pets, or killed off. And we don’t even know all the species. (Background Briefing, ABC RN, 1 September 2002)
Finalist 2003 Eureka Prize for Environmental Journalism

ABC Radio Current Affairs, numerous reports (AM, PM, The World Today, ABC Radio, 2000-2006)

DNA Detectives. Explaining the impact of new “DNA fingerprinting” technology and its role in solving long standing criminal cases. (ABC Regional Radio, 1999)
Winner Michael Daley Eureka Prize for Science, Technology and Engineering Radio Journalism. Australian Science Prizes Awarded (ABC Radio, 5 May 1999)