January, 2019

Surely we can care about people and pets

I was interested to read Geoff Black’s comments (Letters, 31/7) following a particularly curmudgeonly column from Jeff Corbett (‘Pet care ruff on pocket’, Newcastle Herald,30/7).
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As a veterinarian in the region for the past 28 years, I may well have a conflict of interest to draw attention to some of the wild claims made in both contributions. However, I could not let the opportunity pass.

Black’sclaim that pets are western society’s great indulgence may well be his opinion.

However, we know that apart from the utilitarian consideration for domesticated animals, we should recognise there is a symbiotic nature to the relationship.

Dogs provide companionship, but also protection.

They have assisted hunting in earlier societies and formed a communal bond with the human population.

Black claims that dogs’ life expectancies have increased at the expense of our own.

However, the lifeblood flows both ways.

Pets have been shown to provide benefits to mental health and physical health, including control of blood pressure.

Human society also benefits from the close bond with animals who have served as our test subjects for many medical advances over the past century.

As far as veterinary practices being the most lucrative businesses in western society, Black clearly has not looked at the books of any veterinary practices (average profitability 7 per cent) or the industry as a whole(‘Veterinary students to face lifetime debt for degree’,ABC News,14/7/14).

I think he has confused vets with plumbers?

In Australia, the pet market is estimated at $12 billion with 30 per cent spent on food.

About 25per cent is spenton vet services, 12per centon health products and about 8 per centor $1 billionon pet accessories.

This is a lot of money, but is spread over 24 million pets, with household ownership of pets (62 per cent) above the United Kingdom (40 per cent) but lagging New Zealand (64 per cent) and the United States(65 per cent) (‘Australia pet ownership in Australia’,Animal Medicines,2016)

Despite the claims by Black and Corbett, average veterinary spending on dogs per household per year is $397, out of a total pet spend per year of $1475.

So while we sometimes gasp at hearing about someone spending $10,000 or even $20,000 on veterinary care for their pet, there will be a lot of pets that never see a veterinary clinic.

And despite having a wonderful and wealthy society that can provide so much in healthcare for our people, and for our pets, we know that others, including pets, will not receive the care they need.

The paradox of spending money for dying children overseas is often thrown up as an argument against some moral travesty because my neighbour wants to buy his dog a pink collar or walks it in a pram, or spent $500 saving his dog.

YetI haven’t read the column that rails against the spending by that same neighbour buying a car with all the accessories – the special paint job, the sound system souped-upand the tinted windows.

It’s just a car, for crying out loud.

Why, I remember when cars got you from A to B, and they came in any colour you wanted, as long as it was black.

We make choices in life, and I am not sure how someone’s choice to spend whatever they want on their dog, or their car, should make one difference to Jeff Corbett.

But apparently it does.

As our labour market becomes more mobile, we move to more urban areas for improved work and lifestyle opportunities.

We delay child bearing and raising to late 20s and 30s.

Is it any wonder that we seek some companionship from our furry friends, and wish to bestow upon them the care, attention and love they draw from us?

I think it is great that we care about people AND about pets.

That we live in a society that can make these choices available.

And that if you want to believe your pet is waiting for you over the rainbow bridge, we are free to do so.

Dr David Tabrett BVSc MACVSc (Small Animal Medicine, Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care)2017 Australian Small Animal Veterinary Practitioner of the Year


Greens senator files defamation suit

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has accused Sarah Hanson-Young of a “tepid whinge” after she filed a defamation suit against him alleging attacks on her private life.
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Senator Hanson-Young has filed the action in the Federal Court against Senator Leyonhjelm over comments he made on Sky News and 3AW radio in Melbourne.

“The defamatory statements Senator Leyonhjelm made and continues to make are an attack on my character, and have done considerable harm to me and my family,” the Australian Greens senator said in a statement on Thursday.

The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young and NSW senator David Leyonhjelm.

Senator Hanson-Young said she was taking action because such treatment was wrong.

“No woman, whether she be working behind a bar, in an office or in the Parliament, deserves to be treated this way, and it needs to stop,” she said.

“It was always my preference that Senator Leyonhjelm apologise and acknowledge how hurtful, defamatory and damaging his comments were, however he refuses to do so.”

Senator Leyonhjelm revealed in a statement on Thursday night he’d engaged Senior Counsel to “strenuously” defend the claim.

He labelled the lawsuit a “whinge”, and called into question Senator Hanson-Young’s crowdfunding of her legal fees.

“She and her supporters have to date raised more than $60,000, pledging to use the funds to advance the cause of the sisterhood by fighting intimidation, bullying and ‘sexist slurs on my professional reputation’ through court action,” he said.

“Yet the Statement of Claim I received (on Wednesday) contains no such allegations. Instead it is a tepid whinge that I have insinuated she is a hypocrite and a misandrist.”

Senator Leyonhjelm told Senator Hanson-Young on the floor of parliament to “stop shagging men” after he believed she said all men are rapists.

He then later went on television and radio to make further comments about her private life.

Senator Hanson-Young has said if she wins damages from Senator Leyonhjelm she will donate them to Plan International and the Working Women’s Centre SA.


Police swoop in Victoria Labor rorts probe

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is not commenting on police action involving the Labor party.More than 15 people are being questioned by police as part of a fraud investigation into Victorian Labor’s rorts-for-votes scandal.
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It is understood MPs are not among those arrested in Melbourne, regional Victoria, NSW and the Northern Territory on Thursday morning.

The arrests come less than a week after a criminal probe was announced into the misuse of $388,000 by 21 past and present Labor MPs in the party’s successful 2014 election campaign.

A former organiser of what has come to be known as the red shirts scandal told AAP he was arrested at his Melbourne home shortly before 6am for allegedly making a false document.

He was strip-searched and interviewed at the Melbourne West Police Station for an hour before being released but was told he could be charged on summons at a later date.

A total of 17 people were being interviewed in relation to the alleged misuse of parliamentary entitlements, police said, adding further comment would not be appropriate.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ office declined to comment.

The fraud and extortion probe was opened on Friday, after Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass in March found Labor MPs unknowingly used public money in breach of parliamentary guidelines by diverting electorate officers for campaigning.

The money was later repaid and the premier apologised.

Police declined to investigate the scandal in 2016 before reassessing it following a letter of complaint sent by Liberal MP Edward O’Donohue.

The opposition has been calling on the six cabinet ministers named in the ombudsman report, including Attorney-General Martin Pakula, to resign.

Days after the investigation was announced, Deputy Premier James Merlino wrote to police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton requesting an investigation into 18 current and former Liberal and National MPs.

He alleged they used electorate staff for political campaigning during normal business hours but refused to release details of the government’s claims.

The opposition denies any wrongdoing.


Gates ‘may not’ testify in Manafort trial

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial is underway in the US.US prosecutors have raised the possibility that an expected star witness may not testify against US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort even as the judge tried to rein in their portrayal of Manafort’s lavish lifestyle.
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The second day of Manafort’s trial, the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 14-month investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 US election, was overshadowed by Trump calling for an end to the probe with some Democrats accusing Trump of obstructing justice.

Manafort’s consulting work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine that earned him $US60 million took the spotlight in Wednesday’s testimony in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington.

Prosecutors questioned veteran political consultant Daniel Rabin about the work he did for Manafort and told the court it expects to rest its case next week.

Manafort, 69, is charged with tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner who pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mueller, was expected to be a star government witness.

US District Judge T.S. Ellis asked the prosecution if they will have Gates testify.

“He may testify in this case, he may not,” said prosecutor Uzo Asonye, a day after the defence told jurors its strategy centres on discrediting Gates as an untruthful embezzler.

When the judge asked Asonye for a clarification, Asonye said prosecutors are constantly evaluating the need to call a particular witness.

Prosecutors have portrayed Manafort as a tax cheat who hid money in offshore accounts, and lied to borrow millions more against real estate in a bid to maintain an extravagant lifestyle once the work dried up.

To hammer this home, the prosecution called Maximillian Katzman, of New York’s elite custom clothier Alan Couture, who said Manafort was one of his top customers and paid with international wire transfers.

Prosecution lawyer Greg Andres reviewed how much Manafort spent each year on clothing, including $US440,160 in 2013 alone. Ellis interrupted Andres to say, “The government doesn’t want to prosecute somebody because they wear nice clothes, right?”

With the jury out of the room, the judge complained about prosecutors’ efforts to show that Manafort’s life was luxurious and blocked them from showing one document on home renovations.

“Mr Manafort is not on trial for having a lavish lifestyle,” Ellis said.

When questioning witnesses who provided services to Manafort, prosecutors showed invoices that appeared to have been falsified as they sought to document the fraud charges.

Ellis chastised both sides for using the word “oligarch,” saying it has negative connotations and could give jurors the impression Manafort was “consorting and being paid by people who are criminals.”

Trump repeatedly has sought to discredit Mueller’s investigation, which is also looking into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Moscow and whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

The Republican president wrote on Twitter, “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” adding that Mueller’s team is a “disgrace to USA.”

In another tweet referring to 1920s Chicago mobster Alphonse “Al” Capone, Trump wrote, “Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement – although convicted of nothing?”


Fenech toughens Dib for boxing title tilt

Billy Dib will fight Tevin Farmer for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title in Sydney on Friday.Tough lessons learnt in life and from legendary boxer Jeff Fenech have Billy Dib believing he can maintain his pristine professional record in Australian rings and upset American Tevin Farmer in their world title fight on Friday.
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Dib (43-4, 24 KOs) will fight in Sydney for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title after Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa was stripped of the title for failing a drug test in his win over Farmer last December.

The result was changed to a no contest, meaning Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs) remains unbeaten in almost six years and 18 fights since dropping four and drawing one of his first 12 bouts.

All of Dib’s professional losses were overseas and he pointed out Farmer has never fought outside the US in his time in the paid ranks.

The American is a strong betting favourite, but Dib has plenty of big fight experience to draw upon and has been steeled by adversity in and and out of the ring.

He was prepared to give up boxing after losing to the then WBC super featherweight world champion Takashi Miura in May 2015.

It was a third world title defeat in just over two years for Dib who lost his IBF featherweight crown and a rematch to Russian Evgeny Gradovich.

He also experienced tough times outside the ring with his first wife dying from cancer and a divorce from his second wife.

Dib rediscovered his passion for boxing and has changed things since teaming up with triple world champion and experienced trainer Fenech last November.

“He’s tightened up my defence, he’s worked on my punch output and more importantly he’s worked on my mental strength,” Dib told AAP.

‘He’s pushed me to points in training where I thought I was going to vomit.

“I’m ready and physically and mentally capable of anything.

“After everything that I’ve been through in life, I feel that I’m ready for anything that happens.

“Whatever Farmer comes with we’re going to be ready, we’ve worked extremely hard.

“The life lessons I’ve had will get me over the line in this fight.”

Fenech was impressed with the way Dib had applied himself in the short time they have worked together.

“The guy who came to me eight months ago couldn’t have done a quarter of what he’s doing today,” Fenech told AAP.

“His punching, his fitness, he looks young, healthy and strong.”

The undercard features two of Australia’s brightest prospects in bantamweight Brock Jarvis and middleweight Tim Tszyu.