Firefighting foam spilled at Brisbane airport enters river and kills fish

Anglers warned to avoid area as authorities and Qantas investigate leak of chemicals classified as an ‘emerging contaminant”

Brisbane airport
About 22,000 litres of firefighting foam leaked in a Qantas airport hangar at Brisbane airport. Photograph: Jack Tran

A significant spill of firefighting foam at Brisbane airport has contaminated nearby waterways, killing fish and prompting warnings to recreational anglers.

About 22,000 litres of the foam leaked in a Qantas hangar on Monday, the Queensland government confirmed.

About three-quarters was kept within the hangar’s containment system but an undisclosed quantity entered the airport’s stormwater system.

The chemicals have contaminated the lower reaches of the Brisbane river. The impacted areas stretch from Bulimba creek to Fisherman Island, and further north to Shorncliffe.

About 20 dead fish were discovered within the airport’s boundaries. The Queensland government has linked their deaths to the spill.

The spill happened about 9pm on Monday. Qantas did not notify authorities until Tuesday. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is now investigating, and has taken samples from nearby waterways and the fish.

The foam is believed to have contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is part of the human-made chemical group of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals do not easily break down in the environment or humans, according to advice from the New South Wales health department.

There is no conclusive or consistent evidence that they are harmful to human health but the chemicals are classified as an “emerging contaminant” and there is not enough evidence to fully understand their impact.

Health authorities are warning recreational fishers to avoid the area as a precaution. Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young, said people should avoid eating seafood from nearby areas.

“I recommend people avoid eating seafood that was caught in the potentially contaminated area until the results of environment department testing are known,” Young said. “While there is currently no consistent evidence that PFOA exposure causes adverse health harm in humans, I understand this was a significant spill.”

The environment minister, Steven Miles, said a joint Queensland-commonwealth investigation had begun. “Failure to fully contain PFAS firefighting foams is contrary to Queensland government policy, however the Brisbane airport is a commonwealth-regulated site,” Miles said.

“As such, this is now a joint investigation between the Queensland and commonwealth governments,” he said.

Qantas issued a statement on Friday morning, saying it was investigating the leak. It said most of the chemical was contained but some had overflowed into a nearby creek.

“The creek was quickly bunded to stop the fire retardant from flowing downstream,” Qantas said. “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.

“We notified the Queensland government and we’re working with Brisbane airport on the clean-up and the investigation.”

Qantas has engaged a specialist contractor to recover the waste and is storing recovered material in a container within the airport.

Queensland authorities are investigating the entry of foam into the Luggage Point sewage treatment plant, which discharges into the Brisbane river.    “EHP officers attended the site again today to continue monitoring the onsite response to the situation,” Miles said on Thursday.

Last year NSW authorities launched their own investigation of contaminated sites, including airports, firefighting training facilities and industrial sites.

36 Islamic State militants were killed in Afghanistan When the US dropped

  the Afghan defence ministry said on Friday.

To target what the military described as a “tunnel complex” used by the Isis’s Afghanistan affiliate, the US for the first time used what the military colloquially calls the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B.

Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan ministry spokesman said of Thursday’s strike: “No civilian has been hurt and only the base, which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed.”

Designed for destroying underground targets but not itself a deep-earth penetrator weapon, the GBU-43/B has the explosive yield of more than 11 tons of TNT. The massive bomb is dropped from air force planes and detonates before reaching the ground, resulting in an enormous blast radius. Only the Massive Ordnance Penetrator GBU-57, which has never been used in war, is a larger conventional weapon.

 The psychological effect on survivors or observers is considered an added impact of the weaideo
Current Time0:00
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Donald Trump praises US forces following MOAB strike 

Asked whether he had authorized the bombing, Donald Trump said: “Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

Did this bombing send a message to North Korea? “I don’t know if this sends a message; it doesn’t make any difference if it does or not,” the president said. “North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of.” He implied that China was “working very hard” on this issue.

Army Gen John W Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the GBU-43/B was the “right munition” to use against the Islamic State in Khorosan, or Isis-K.

“As Isis-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against Isis-K,” Nicholson said.

The blast detonated at 7.32pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to the US military.

Sarab, a local resident from Asadkhel in Achin, close to the mountain where the bomb targeted Isis tunnels, said he saw a giant flame before the blast made the ground shake. “It was the biggest blast I have ever heard,” he said. Sarab added that the targeted area had recently been completely occupied by Isis fighters.

“There is no way that civilians were still living there,” he said.

However, a parliamentarian from Nangarhar, Esmatullah Shinwari, said locals had told him one teacher and his young son had been killed. One man, the MP recounted, had told him before the phone lines went down: “I have grown up in the war, and I have heard different kinds of explosions through 30 years: suicide attacks, earthquakes different kinds of blasts. I have never heard anything like this.” Phone connections are regularly interrupted in Achin and there were no immediate indication of casualties.

Haji Ghalib Mujahed, a local veteran commander, said he felt “tremors” all the way to Bati Kot, a neighbouring district where he is now the administrative chief.

According to the most recent estimates from the US military in Afghanistan, there are between 600 and 800 Isis-K fighters in the country. Most of them are based in southern Nangarhar province, including in Achin.

An American special forces soldier was killed last week in Achin while fighting Isis-K, but a US military spokesman in Kabul, Capt William Salvin, said there was “absolutely no connection” between that death and Thursday’s bombing.

Nicholson’s command said it took “every precaution to avoid civilian casualties”, without defining those steps, but gave no word on the impact to Afghan civilians.

The military said it used the GBU-43/B to “minimize the risk” to Afghan and US forces fighting Isis-K in Achin.

Following the bombing, US and Afghan forces began clearing operations in the targeted area.

An Afghan army soldier told the Guardian, as he was driving toward the targeted area: “The explosion felt like a big earthquake, even in the surrounding districts.”

Trump has said practically nothing about Afghanistan, either as candidate or president. Nicholson told Congress in February that he wanted a few thousandmore troops to bolster the 8,400-strong force Barack Obama left to wage America’s longest war, now in its 16th year.

Trump on Wednesday said he would dispatch his national security adviser, HR McMaster, to meet with Nicholson and conduct a policy review. As a three-star army general on active duty, McMaster is outranked by Nicholson, making it difficult for McMaster to resist Nicholson’s recommendations.

The US military is currently facing widespread concerns that its accelerated bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are increasing civilian casualties. A 17 March strike on a building in Mosul is currently under investigation after killing scores of Iraqis.

US allies have also felt the brunt of escalated US airstrikes. On Thursday, the Pentagon revealed that its Syrian allies in a Kurdish-led ground force, the Syrian Democratic Forces, requested an airstrike on an errant position erroneously believed to be held by Isis. The 11 April strike killed 18 fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces themselves.

Air Force statistics released on Thursday show that March 2017 was the most intense month of the US-led bombing campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria, a war nearly three years old. US warplanes fired 3,878 munitions in March, topping January 2017’s previous high of 3,600.

In Afghanistan, US warplanes fired 203 weapons in March, the highest volume since October.

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan installed in 2001 by the US and backed by the international community, tweeted that the bombing meant Afghans needed to “stop the USA”.

Trump said on the campaign trail that he would “bomb the shit” out of Isis.

His spokesman, Sean Spicer, said on Thursday the use of the GBU-43/B showed the US “takes the fight against Isis very seriously and in order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space, which we did ”.

Describing the bombing at his regular White House press briefing, he told reporters: “At around 7pm local time in Afghanistan last night the United States military used a GBU-43 weapon in Afghanistan. The GBU-43 is a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon. We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that Isis fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.”

He refused to answer further questions about the bomb at his regular press briefing, referring journalists to the Department of Defense.

Additional reporting by David Smith in Washingto

Time to end the Treasurer’s ‘housing supply’ con

housing bubble sydney

Treasurer Scott Morrison continues to ignore key causes of the housing affordability crisis. Photo: AAP


When Derryn Hinch told the ABC on Monday that “owning your own home is not an Australian right”, he was unwittingly throwing his weight behind a huge con.

That con, in essence, is to convince voters that a major structural undersupply of dwellings is responsible for the current housing affordability crisis.

The argument is utterly bogus, though Mr Hinch may not yet understand why.

When asked if young Australians had “unrealistic expectations of where they can afford to buy homes close to the city”, he replied:

“You’re right. You’re 100 per cent right … it’s the expectation that, you know, here I am, I’m married, I’m da da da da, and therefore I should have a house.

“Now, in many European countries, and you look at places like New York City, most people – I think I’m right in saying this, or it was some years ago – most people rent, they don’t buy, they can’t afford it.”

Sounds reasonable, until you look at the number of Australian residents per dwelling.

Houses have grown a bit bigger on average, but even in ‘bubble state’ NSW the average number of residents per dwelling has been virtually flat since the millennium (see chart below).

housing crisis sydney

And yet our political leaders, hand-in-glove with property developers and the banks, try to create the illogical impression that average house prices have risen because people want to live close to city centres.

Treasurer Scott Morrison told the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute in Melbourne on Monday that “… just over half of renters say they rent because they can’t afford to buy their own property”.

“Because of this, they are staying in the rental market for longer – a dynamic that puts upward pressure on rental prices and availability and even more pressure on lower-income households, increasing the need for affordable housing,” Mr Morrison said.

“Increasing numbers of higher income earners privately renting has the obvious effect of lowering availability of affordable rental stock to those on low incomes.”

The Treasurer’s logic is completely flawed.

When a renter becomes a home owner, they vacate one property and occupy another. When a high-income earner sells their home and decides to rent, they vacate one property and occupy another.

The average number of Australian residents per dwelling is not affected by that process.

If immigration, or the birth and death rates, ever get substantially ahead of the national supply of housing stock, that really would be a supply issue – we’ll know more about that when the second round of 2016 census data is released in June.

But until that happens, rising prices in one area should be offset by fewer dollars chasing properties in another area.

So why does that not happen?

Well actually, it does. House prices are falling in Perth, for instance, as mining-related workers head east to look for new jobs. Rental vacancies in that city have risen from around 1 per cent to 5 per cent in the past four years.

But those relative shifts between one capital city and another, or between inner and outer suburbs, have been dwarfed in the post-millennium era by the credit bubble that began to grow when generous discounts to capital gains tax were legislated in 1999.

Twin distortions

The 50 per cent CGT discount, combined with existing negative gearing provisions, meant that property investors could afford to borrow more to bid up house prices. As they did so, owner-occupiers were forced to try to match them.

The entire market has been lifted, like a harbour full of different-sized boats, by the same tide – cheap credit and ridiculously generous tax incentives for investors.

The two most important causes of the housing affordability crisis are, therefore, the ones Mr Morrison has already vowed not to reform.

To make planned affordability measures in this year’s budget seem plausible, Mr Morrison’s housing supply con must be maintained.

Mr Hinch should not join that effort. Owning your own home may not be an Australian right, but shopping for a home in a market that is not systematically distorted to benefit investors, developers and banks certainly is.

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China responsible for stopping North Korean nuclear weapons reaching Australia

Christopher Pyne says Kim Jong-un developing capability to reach Australia with nuclear weapons within two years

Christopher Pyne
Christopher Pyne says China must use its influence over North Korea to stop the development of nuclear weapons that could reach Australia. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP60

North Korea is developing missile capability to reach Australia and the United States with nuclear weapons within two years and China has primary responsibility to stop it, Christopher Pyne has said.

The defence industry minister delivered the warning on Radio National on Thursday but sounded an optimistic note that experts believe North Korea will “step away from the brink”.

Last week the US president, Donald Trump, warned China that if it failed to put pressure on North Korea to disable its nuclear program then the US was prepared to take action against Pyongyang on its own.

North Korea has warned of “catastrophic consequences” in response to any further provocations by the US, days after a US navy battle group was sent to waters off the Korean peninsula.

Pyne said North Korea was engaged in a “military build-up as opposed to feeding its people” and could already do “great damage” to its neighbours, including South Korea and Japan, which are within nuclear missile range.

“They can’t yet reach Australia and the continental United States with the missiles that they have, but they are developing missiles that they would like to be able to use to reach countries like Australia and the United States.”

He agreed with the US assessment that North Korea could gain the capability to reach the US and Australia with nuclear weapons within two years, saying Australia’s ally “doesn’t make things up … [or] make wild, florid statements”.

Pyne accepted there were dangers in the US’s hardened stance to North Korea but said the Trump administration was “working to ensure there was no military action in North Korea and north Asia” while “firmly reminding North Korea that they need to play [a role] in the world as reasonable international citizens”.

“We hope that China will play their role as a responsible world power with most influence over that particular regime,” he said, adding that China now appeared to be “stepping up to that role”.

On Wednesday on his visit to India, Malcolm Turnbull had said China was not doing enough to curb the dangerous and reckless conduct of North Korea.

Pyne said China had “primary responsibility” because of its influence over North Korea. China’s public statements indicate it would not support “any rogue behaviour” from Kim Jong-un and supported the US in a “sensible and equal partnership to maintain a rules-based order”.

He said that so far North Korea had “done a lot of sabre rattling but not moved to the next step” and “respected foreign experts say [it] will step away from the brink because they have done that many times before”. But he also noted the North Korean regime was “more unpredictable” than others.

Asked about the potential for conflict with Russia over the situation in Syria, Pyne noted that Russia “is strongly backing the Assad regime” while allied countries, led by the US and including Australia, would like a new regime as part of a political settlement.

The Trump administration has insisted that a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people last week in Syria was the work of Bashar al-Assad and that the Syrian president could play no part in the country’s long-term future.

Trump has said that US relations with Russia may be at “an all-time low” after Russia vetoed a US-backed resolution on Syria at the UN security council while China abstained.

Pyne said that Russia had “an important part to play in the next transition in Syria because they have their longstanding interest in the Middle East”.

“It’s unfortunate that they sometimes back the wrong regime, as I believe they have in this case. In terms of international diplomacy, one has to work with what one has.”

Pyne described talks between US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the US president, Vladimir Putin, as “a very positive sign” that the two countries could work together.


Donald Trump’s Muslim ban excludes countries in which he has business ties

 Paul McGeough

  • Paul McGeough

As Trump severed the torch-bearing arm from the Statue of Liberty and the US went dark overnight on Friday, American airport arrival halls and departure lounges around the world became settings for heartbreak, frustration and panic.

Accounts of the arrival at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi, read like a bad Hollywood movie – despite working for the US in Iraq for a decade, for which he was targeted twice, Hameed was detained but his wife and children were allowed in; his lawyer was not allowed to see him; and when the lawyer asked who did he need to contact, he was told by a border agent: “Call Mr Trump.”

Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, by all accounts a brilliant young scientist from Iran, was due to travel to Boston to take up a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard – but his and his wife’s visas were suspended indefinitely.

A Syrian refugee family of six, who have been living in a Turkish refugee camp since fleeing the living hell of the Syrian civil war in 2014, had been granted visas and were to arrive in Cleveland on Tuesday – their travel was cancelled.

In Cairo, a group of young Arabs – five Iraqis, one Yemeni – all with valid immigration papers, were about to board an EgyptAir flight to New York when they were told they could not.

In Istanbul, security officers boarded an aircraft that was set for takeoff to the US and removed a young Iranian woman and her family.

Trump’s sinister choice of blacklisted countries

The new President is cravenly political in the countries he decided to put on a refugee and migrant blacklist. And his inclusions and exclusions don’t make sense – unless your name is Donald Trump.

Trump claims to be motivated by the horrific September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but the countries of which the 19 aircraft hijackers were citizens are not on the list – most came from Saudi Arabia and the rest from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.

Also absurdly absent are Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan – all of them hotbeds of terror. In excluding them, Trump is grovelling to their leaders, not making a gesture to their people.

But there’s something a bit more sinister in his choice of targets.

This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion. What do we do — get a new inscription on the Statue of Liberty?

Former US ambassador Ryan Crocker

In the 40 years to 2015, not a single American was killed on US soil by citizens from any of the seven countries targeted – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – according to research by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.

But the same research shows that in the same period nearly 3000 Americans were killed by citizens of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey — most victims of the September 11 attacks.

And oops, wouldn’t you know it, Trump has multimillion-dollar business operations in all those countries.

In 2015, he registered eight hotel-related companies in Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post; in Turkey, two luxury towers in Istanbul are licensed to use his name; in Egypt, he has two companies; and in the UAE, he has naming and management deals for two golf courses.

It was extreme and demeaning for a good number of Muslims, especially for refugees whose lives and connections were picked over for as long three years by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defence, the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Centre, and various other US intelligence agencies.

In 2016, the US admitted Christian and Muslim refugees in similar numbers – 37,521 Christians and 38,901 Muslims, according to the Pew Research Centre. But given that the Middle East is overwhelmingly Muslim, the number of Muslims and Christians granted refuge from Syria and Iraq is much more likely to be about proportion than discrimination, as Trump has suggested.

And in singling out the plight of Christians as the victims of Islamic State, Trump is seemingly oblivious to, or just choosing to ignore, the fact that IS has murdered thousands of Muslims around the world.

Trump’s recent predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, consistently refused to disparage all Muslims for the terrorism of a few who have perverted the religion. That Trump appears to be enjoying himself is not surprising, given that the man he has appointed as his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, argues that Islam – not terrorism – is a cancer.

Global condemnation

No surprise, then, that this rush of blood to Trump’s head is being badly received – in the Muslim world and by those who are experts in international relations and other fields.

David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and head of the International Rescue Committee, decried Trump’s orders as “a repudiation of fundamental American values, an abandonment of the US’ role as a humanitarian leader and, far from protecting the country from extremism, a propaganda gift to those who would plot harm to America”.

“I think this is going to alienate the whole Muslim world,” Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi national security adviser, told The New York Times.

Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador who served in five Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, under various administrations, took exception to Trump’s executive order – which was publicly signed at the Pentagon – on several counts.

“This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion. What do we do — get a new inscription on the Statue of Liberty? The Islamic State says it is leading the war against the US,” he said. “Now it only has to pump out our press releases to prove that.”

He was especially indignant on the plight of the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who had risked their lives by working with the Americans after their countries were invaded by US-led coalitions – and of the likely reluctance of foreigners to work for the US in future conflict zones.

From refugee to . @USMC Cpl Ali J. Mohammed takes the fight to the doorstep of those who cast his family out. 

“We are effectively saying to past, current and potential future interpreters, that we want them to work with us and risk their lives in the field — confident in the knowledge that they will be hung out to dry.”

A reality that Trump ignores, and which all the high-IQ figures he boasts of in his cabinet are allowing him to get away with, is this: the chance of an American being killed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion, infinitely greater than being struck by lightning not once, but twice.

Easter egg taste test: raiding the nest to crack Australia’s best

The country’s favourite eggs go shell-to-shell on looks, taste and value. It’s a tough gig – but there is one clear winner

 Junior Guardian Easter egg taste testers Theo, Matilda and Angus hard at work
Junior Guardian Easter egg taste testers Theo, Matilda and Angus hard at work. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

Each year it’s a dilemma for millions of Australians. When it comes to buying Easter eggs, is it better to make a trip to a boutique chocolatier or leave it until Easter Saturday to stock up on supermarket specials?

And so we put some of Guardian Australia’s top journalists in a room laden with this year’s best chocolatey offerings, and what we get, apart from a few stomachaches, are some considered observations. Or so we think while munching on the goodies.

The spread includes eggs from Haigh’s, Koko Black, Max Brenner, Lindt, Aldi’s Choceur range, Cadburys and Red Tulip. Given these are self-confessed chocoholics, we ask the journos to consider the most impressive, most delicious, most sophisticated and best value. And finally we round up some children to give us their verdict on eggs aimed at the under-12s. It’s a tough afternoon but the team get cracking and give the assignment their best.

Easter egg taste testing at Guardian Australia’s Sydney office
Guardian Australia’s self-confessed chocoholics Lucy Clark, Mike Ticher and Bridie Jabour get to it. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

Most impressive

When it comes to giving chocolate eggs to your nearest and dearest, impact counts. And so it is with Koko Black’s caramelised coconut egg milk ($24), which takes out the top gong for looks and taste.

Senior editor Lucy Clark gives the milk chocolate egg top marks, saying: “[It] scores a 10/10 for being both the most impressive and the most delicious product on offer (and slightly reminiscent of an upmarket Coconut Rough).”

For news editor Mike Ticher, Haigh’s dark chocolate egg ($15.50) hits all the right notes: “Elegant packaging, solid understated dark chocolate. Looks and tastes like an Easter egg should.”

Another popular choice is Koko Black dark choc hot-cross truffle eggs ($2.30 each) presented in a gift box for maximum impact. Says subeditor Susan McDonald: “Luxurious, cocoa-dusted, and expensive-looking. And taste lives up to expectations.” Producer Anna Livsey notes: “Simple white and gold packaging and an assortment of delicious truffles done in a muted palette inside.”

The surprise favourite is Haigh’s milk half egg with milk speckles ($16.95). Assistant news editor Bridie Jabour confesses to being somewhat dazzled by the egg: “At first encounter you think you are getting a simple freckle, as we called them when we were kids, but it’s a solid amount of creamy chocolate with delicious sprinkles for texture.” And as McDonald says: “Freckles! An old favourite – and presented in a half-egg. What’s not to like?

Honourable mention: Red Tulip’s classic bunny ($4.50): “[It’s] the Easter bunny of your childhood for the adult. The bunny packaging is a joy but the chocolate is not too sweet, so you don’t feel like you’re regressing too much.”

The half egg with speckles
‘At first encounter you think you are getting a simple freckle … but it’s a solid amount of creamy chocolate with delicious sprinkles for texture.’ Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

Most delicious

Taste is of course utterly subjective when it comes to chocolate eggs: swerving from slightly bitter dark chocolate through smooth creamy milk chocolate to the ultra sweet white chocolate. And while those in the know quibble about “continuous phase lipid composition”, as Clark points out: “There’s really only one question you need answered: does it melt in your mouth?”

Haigh’s premium milk chocolate egg ($24.75) does just that for Livsey, who gives her points to the time-honoured classic. As she points out: “If you can’t get the basics right what is the point?” Jabour goes to the other end of the spectrum, surprised to find herself falling for Aldi’s chocolate truffle eggs ($4.29): “These were creamy and just the tiniest bit bitter.”

The comments are convincing. Says McDonald: “Evocative of childhood for me. Honeycomb with chocolate can sometimes be too sweet but this isn’t. Just right.” Jabour: “It was the chocolate I went back to the most.” Even the discerning Ticher is impressed by how much he enjoys it: “The honeycomb works surprisingly well in egg form. Gives it a lot of weight, and it’s not quite as sweet as some honeycomb chocolate bars (though you couldn’t brand it as a healthy option).”

Honourable mention: Koko Black dark choc hot-cross truffle eggs: “Soft powder cocoa on top of luscious toffee centre. These look first-rate and taste first-rate too. Heaven!”

Best value

If we’re spending up big, it’s worth getting the best-value chocolate for our buck, so it’s no surprise one of Australia’s favourites walks away with this prize. The Lindt gold bunny ($5) appears on three out of five lists. As Clark puts it: “The Lindt bunny is reliable smooth milk chocolate from the world’s most famous chocolate brand. Consistency, consistency, consistency.”

The gold bunny and other eggs
The Lindt gold bunny (left) – ‘consistency, consistency, consistency’. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

A family favourite, the Red Tulip milk chocolate bunny ($4.50) with its foil wrapper and beatific grin, also comes up trumps. “Fancy chocolate that can be picked up in the supermarket,” reports Jabour.

And given that good things come in three, Koko Black’s pack of three mini praline bunnies ($6.50) is a shoo-in. “Sometimes you don’t want a great big egg and these little quality dark choc bunnies are a great-value alternative.”

Honourable mention: Aldi chocolate truffle eggs ($4.29), “Elegantly packaged but at Aldi’s low price.”

Most sophisticated

Sophistication is in the eye of the beholder but when it comes to chocolate, it seems truffles are the way to go. Haigh’s milk chocolate egg, with its shell filled with mini truffles ($32.50), and the Koko Black dark choc hot-cross truffle eggs are firm favourites.

One of those in favour of Koko Black says: “My kids wouldn’t like these – too rich to eat a whole box of. But that makes them perfect for when you want one (or two) with a glass of wine (or muscat).”

Jabour comes down on the side of Haigh’s, saying: “Anyone who pays $30 for an Easter egg is first against the wall in the revolution, but the chocolates inside are tasty.”

But in the immortal words of Ticher: “Easter eggs should not aspire to be sophisticated.”

Honourable mention: Haigh’s dark chocolate egg. “Smooth, not too sharp, the perfect egg for the person who wants to pretend they’re above eating chocolate at 9am.”

Children tasting Easter eggs
Under-12s are the true chocolate egg connoisseurs. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

Best for kids

They may be young but the under-12s are true chocolate egg connoisseurs. With the help of three enthusiastic volunteers, we put an array of eggs aimed at children to the test. These tasters know their eggs, so they are asked to judge on looks, taste and the amount of chocolate provided.

The most popular egg is undoubtedly Koko Black’s caramelised coconut egg milk, which appears on all three top-five lists for the kids. As 11-year-old Angus notes: “It’s visually appealing, tastes amazing and provides a fair amount of chocolate.” Koko Black’s pack of three mini praline bunnies ($6.50) is also rated highly. (Angus: “In my opinion, tastes the best.”)

The other favourite is Aldi’s Choceur 100s & 1000s Easter egg ($4.99) – not least because, as 12-year old Theo, who makes it his top pick, says: “It looks really nice to eat, and you get a decent amount of chocolate.” For six-year-old Matilda, its presentation makes a big impact, because: “I like the sprinkles and it looked pretty.”

Honourable mentions go to the white chocolate Choceurs popping candy, $4.99 (thrilling for kids, not so much for adults), perennial favourite the Lindt gold bunny ($5) and Haigh’s milk chocolate bilby ($26.50) because, in Matilda’s words: “He looked cute and tasted like Easter egg.”

Overall winner

When it comes to presentation, taste and sheer yumminess, Koko Black’s caramelised coconut egg milk ($24) walks away with all the categories.

Mosquitoes are a health hazard fact sheet

Last updated: 17 January 2017

Avoid mosquito bites

Mosquitoes can transmit a number of serious human diseases. In NSW, some types of mosquitoes can transmit viruses such as Ross River and Barmah Forest and, rarely, the virus that causes Murray Valley encephalitis. Some parts of northern Queensland have a type of mosquito that can transmit dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika infections.

Overseas travellers may be at risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya or Zika. While vaccines are available for some diseases (e.g. yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis) and chemoprophylaxis medicine can help prevent malaria, all travellers should also use repellents and other general protective measures to avoid mosquito bites.

Wear appropriate clothing

Minimising the amount of exposed skin reduces the risk of mosquito bites by wearing loose, light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and pants. Also wear socks and shoes where possible.

Some mosquitoes will bite through clothing. Consider using clothing pre-treated with insecticides but remember that repellent must still be applied to exposed skin.

Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin

Use a mosquito repellent on all exposed skin areas. Reapply the repellent according to instructions or when you notice mosquitoes biting.

Avoid putting repellent near the eyes and mouth, or over open wounds, broken skin or abrasions. Always follow the product label instructions.

The most effective mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) (also known as Extract of Lemon Eucalyptus) or para menthane diol (PMD) also provide adequate protection.

The strength of a repellent determines the duration of protection with the higher concentrations providing longer periods of protection. Always check the label for reapplication times. Note that botanical-based products (such as Eucalyptus or Citronella) provide only limited protection and require frequent reapplication.

Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin. After returning indoors, rinse off repellent with soap and water

Mosquito repellent needs to be reapplied after swimming. The duration of protection from repellent is also reduced with perspiration, such as during strenuous activity or hot weather so it may need to be reapplied more frequently.

If you’re using sunscreen (and you should), apply the sunscreen first and then apply the repellent. Be aware that DEET-containing repellents may decrease the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens so you may need to re-apply the sunscreen more frequently.

And for children – most skin repellents are safe for use on children aged 3 months and older when used according to directions, although some formulations are only recommended for children aged 12 months and older – always check the product label for recommended age use.

Never allow young children to apply their own repellent. Infants aged less than 3 months can be protected from mosquitoes by using an infant carrier draped with mosquito netting that is secured along the edges.

Protection during pregnancy – registered mosquito repellents used according to product label instructions are considered safe for use during pregnancy and while breast-feeding.

Use appropriate insecticides

Aerosol insecticide sprays, mosquito coils (used outdoors) and vapourising mats (used indoors) can help to clear rooms or areas of mosquitoes or repel mosquitoes from an area. These products should be used in addition to, not in place of, other measures such as appropriate clothing and skin repellents.

New personal (e.g. clip-on) spatial repellent products containing active ingredients such as metofluthrin are likely to augment the effect of other measures but most have yet to be fully evaluated.

Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects have not been proven to be effective in reducing mosquito numbers and often kill more harmless insects.

Be aware of the peak risk times for mosquito bites

Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours to reduce the risk of infection. Avoid the outdoors or take preventive actions (such as appropriate clothing and skin repellent). In NSW, most mosquitoes become active at dawn and dusk, and into the evening.

When travelling overseas it is important to be aware of the biting patterns of the local mosquitoes which transmit diseases. For example:

  • The mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika will bite all through the day.
  • The mosquitoes that transmit malaria are most active at dawn and dusk, and into the evening.

Reduce mosquito risk around the home

Stop adult mosquitoes entering the home by using flyscreens on windows and doors, and screening chimneys, vents and other entrances. Repair any damaged screens.

Also consider using a surface insecticide spray in areas where mosquitoes like to rest. During the day, mosquitoes rest and hide in cool shady areas such as in and around the home before emerging at dusk to feed. Make sure you avoid aquaria and fish ponds as fish are acutely sensitive to these insecticides.

Mosquitoes need water to breed and some mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of water, such as in the water that collects in a discarded soft-drink can. Measures to reduce the risk of mosquitoes breeding in around the home include:

  • cleaning up your backyard and removing all water-holding rubbish, including tires and containers
  • keeping your lawns mowed
  • flushing and wiping out bird baths and water features once a week.
  • filling pot plant bases with sand to avoid standing water
  • storing anything that can hold water undercover or in a dry place, and keeping  bins covered
  • flushing out the leaves of water-holding plants such as bromeliads once a week
  • keeping drains and roof guttering clear to avoid standing water
  • covering or securely screening the openings of septic tanks and rainwater tanks.

Properly cleaned and chlorinated swimming pools are rarely a source of mosquito breeding but neglected pools can be a haven for mosquitoes.

Reduce mosquito risk around the farm

If you live on a farm, additional precautions are needed to reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. These include:

  • keeping dams and ground pools free of vegetation
  • checking dam walls and irrigation bays for water leaks
  • being careful not to over-irrigate to avoid water collecting in low-lying areas for long periods of time
  • not allowing irrigation water to flow into and lie undisturbed in roadside table drains.

Reduce mosquito risk while travelling

In addition to the general protection measures above, travellers should also:

  • stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms
  • use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors. Nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid insecticide, such as permethrin. Pre-treated bed nets can be purchased before travelling, or nets can be treated after purchase.
  • avoid known areas of high mosquito-borne disease transmission or outbreaks. This is particularly important for people at higher risk of complications from mosquito-borne diseases, such as pregnant women if exposed to Zika or malaria.

See the Staying healthy when travelling overseas factsheet for further information on travel. The Smartraveller websitealso has health information for specific destinations.

For further information please call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.

 Page Updated: Tuesday 17 January 2017

News Corp Australia sacks most of its photographers and subeditors to cut costs

Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier-Mail will lose dozens of staff and comes after company posted a second-quarter loss of $287m in February

 News Corp mastheads.
News Corp will replace staff photographers with a ‘hybrid model’ of a small number of specialist staff along with freelance and agency photographers – and in-house production will be simplified. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian tabloids are making the majority of their photographers and subeditors redundant in a radical cost-cutting move designed to keep the ailing newspaper business afloat.

The director of editorial management, Campbell Reid, said the restructure of the traditional newsroom was needed to “preserve in print and excel in digital”.

The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Courier-Mail are set to lose dozens of staff each – the Queensland masthead alone will cut 45 – although the company is not revealing the total number of job losses.

Last week the Gold Coast Bulletin was told it had to lose 10 jobs, and sources said dozens of people had been quietly made redundant already this year across all the mastheads.

 News Corp said the old model of staff photographers would be retired for a “hybrid model, consisting of a core team of photographic specialists, complemented by freelance and agency talent”.

At a meeting at Sydney’s Holt Street headquarters, the Daily Telegraph editor, Chris Dore, told staff the photographers would lose their permanent status but may be hired back as casuals and freelancers.

Staff at the Herald Sun were told News Corp “is in a fight for its life”.

There was no mention at the meeting of the company’s financial losses which are behind the move. In February News Corp posted a second-quarter loss of $287m and cited impairments in the Australian newspaper business as a key factor. The Australian editors were summoned to the US for a meeting about making substantial cuts to operations.

News described the changes as a modernisation of the newsroom which would “simplify in-house production and maximise the use of available print technology for print edition production”.

“Like every other business today, we have to identify opportunities to improve and modernise the way we work to become more efficient,” Reid said.

“We need to organise our editorial operations so we can preserve in print and excel in digital. This requires a new approach to long-standing newsroom processes.

“Our core franchise is journalism and we will always protect and preserve that. These changes do not diminish our commitment to quality nor our faith in the long-term future of all our publishing platforms.

On Tuesday afternoon staff across the country were briefed on the changes, but management refused to answer questions about how many jobs would go.

In Melbourne, staff of the Herald Sun were briefed by Victorian managing director of editorial, Peter Blunden. As many as 40 jobs are expected to go from the Herald Sun. The Australian appears to be immune from this round.

A $60m content management system called Methode – introduced by former CEO Kim Williams in 2012 – would enable journalists to edit, lay out and publish their own stories, bypassing the need for subeditors and production journalists, sources said.

“The investment in Methode plays a foundation stone role in engaging our customers,” Williams said before he stepped down in 2013.

“It will allow us to create once and publish many times across every platform our customers use – print, online, tablet, mobile, smart devices, and broadcast. We are a media company and we have confidence in all the forms of media that Methode will serve, enabling our journalists to produce great material efficiently.

“The new operating model is designed to empower staff to work smarter and faster. We will upskill our central functions and eliminate wasteful duplication.

“The new model addresses areas where we have skill shortages and are duplicating functions. We will hire new people where required, but regrettably some roles will become redundant.”

Ironically, Williams’ grand plan to restructure News Corp, which faced fierce resistance within the company and in part led to his departure, has now largely been adopted as the company faces even more severe conditions in the media business. After leaving, Williams accused News Corp, of “vaingloriously ignoring facts” about the future of digital news.

Significant changes to work practices are likely, including earlier deadlines, greater copy sharing across cities and mastheads, and journalists doing production roles.

“The job redundancies that will result which will only serve to strip vital editorial talent from the company’s mastheads, harm the very products that News Corp’s audiences value and end up being self-defeating because of the damage they do,” the union’s media section director, Katelin McInerney, said.

“Cutting the very staff who tell the stories of our society’s marginalised and vulnerable – particularly those photojournalists who create the images we, as audiences, rely on to cut to the heart of an issue in a powerful, compelling and instantaneous way – has proved an ultimately futile stop-gap measure for news companies,” McInerney said.

The cuts at News follow major cuts announced last week by rival Fairfax Mediawhich aim to remove $30m annually from the editorial budget by losing dozens of journalists and photographers.