The dementia cases that can be prevented

In retrospect, the signs made sense. Doug Youngloved cars, so much so that he spent his weekends restoring them.

Fixing up a car might take Doug a couple of weekends, but he had been working onthe latest car for several years without any progress. He was also coming home with dings on the family car, unusual for a man who cared meticulouslyfor his vehicles.

Then, in 2011, Doug was diagnosed with dementia. He became one of more than410,000 Australians with the disease, which has become the country’s second leading cause of death.

At first, Doug’s decline was gradual and the typical “Aussie bloke” who was proud, and used to doing things himself and caring for his family, became frustrated as he became less able.

A “heartbreaking” decline: Doug with Nick Young. Photo: Supplied

Then, in 2011, Doug was diagnosed with dementia. He became one of more than410,000 Australians with the disease, which has become the country’s second leading cause of death.

At first, Doug’s decline was gradual and the typical “Aussie bloke” who was proud, and used to doing things himself and caring for his family, became frustrated as he became less able.

Riders before the 2016 Ride to Remember. Photo: Supplied

“He lost the ability to drive, he lost his licence – that was a huge turning point -and then over the last few years it’s been a steady decline,” 36-year-old son, Nick explains.

Doug, 74, still remembers nursery rhymes which he sings with Nick’s 4-year-old daughter Isabelle.”Otherwise there’s no awareness of where he is or recollection of his family,” Nick says. “It’s reached the point where we are now looking for permanent care.”

Nick’s mother, who has spent the last 15 years caring first for her own mother, who also had dementia, and now her husband, is “at the end of her tether emotionally, physically and mentally”.

While themajority of dementia is not inherited, Nick fears his own fate.

“I fear, I truly fear that my wife will be doing the same thing for me. I’ll forget someone’s name or I’ll forget that I had to do something and straight away, I can’t not think maybe this is the start.”

Anew paperpublished inThe Lancethas found that one in three cases of dementia can potentially be prevented and we need to start thinking about it early.

Dementia may be considered a disease of the elderly, and it is true that it usually occurs in people aged over 65 years, but what we do when we are much younger can affect our likelihood of getting it.

The Lancetrecommendations for improvingbrain health and minimisingthe risk ofdementiaare: increasing education (past the age of 15), physical activity and social engagement while reducing smoking and obesity, treating blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and hearing impairment.

Until a cure is found for dementia, Nick Young wants to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s Australia. Last September he and friend Pierre, whose mother has dementia, began a155 kilometre annual cycle, theBondi2Berry Ride to Remember.

People they had been cycling with for years signed up for the ride, revealing they also had a parent or grandparent with dementia.

“These were close friends we’d known for years and years and years,” Nick says. “At no point would we know that they had been affected by dementia, or likewise my dad or Pierre’s mum.

“That emphasised it even more to us – people everywhere are affected and noone talks about it… I wasn’t going to blurt out my dad’s got dementia and he doesn’t remember me.”

It is heartbreaking to watch, Nick says, and heartbreaking that others also have to see their loved ones go through the same thing.

“It shouldn’t be happening and it shouldn’t be happening to anyone.”

START EARLY”We should think about prevention in childhood and consider education and lay the grounds for a brain healthy lifestyle,” says lead author Professor Gill Livingston of University College London.

“The number of people with dementia is increasing due to the ageing population with the welcome reduction in premature morbidity. This is happening in all countries.

“However the rates per 1000 older people is reducing in some high income countries and this is in the more highly educated. This is probably because education confers some physical brain resilience and makes people more likely to change their behaviour in a healthy way.”

OBESITY, DIABETES AND BLOOD PRESSUREAddressing cognitive function through education makes sense, but how do factors like obesity, diabetes or blood pressure play a part?

“We think weight and other such factors work mainly by decreasing blood flow to the brain and increasing insulin resistance so the brain is bathed in excess sugar,” Livingston explains.

HEARING LOSSThe researchers are unsure about why hearing loss, which has not previously been considered a risk factor, might result in cognitive decline but say multiple studies have found “even mild levels of hearing loss increase the long-term risk of cognitive decline and dementia”.

“Hearing loss might either add to the cognitive load of a vulnerable brain leading to changes in the brain, or lead to social disengagement or depression and accelerated atrophy, all of which could contribute to accelerated cognitive decline,” they suggest.

EXERCISE”No randomised trials are available to show that exercise prevents cognitive decline or dementia, but observational studies have found an inverse relation between exercise and risk of dementia,” the authors say, adding that its benefits include improved balance, reducing the risk of falling, improving mood, function and lifespan.

SMOKING”The association with cognitive impairment might be due to the link between smoking and cardiovascular pathology, but cigarette smoke also contains neurotoxins, which heighten the risk,” the authors explain.

DEPRESSIONThere is debate about whether depression contributes to the risk of dementia or is a symptom of dementia (it is believed that more than 20 per cent of those diagnosed have depression). While research findings vary, the authors suggest there is reason to believe it may be a possible cause.

“It is biologically plausible that depression increases dementia risk because it affects stress hormones, neuronal growth factors, and hippocampal volume,” they say. “Antidepressant prescriptions have increased in the past three decades and this increase is hypothesised to affect dementia incidence since animal data suggest that some antidepressants, including citalopram, decrease amyloid production.”

SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT”Evidence is growing that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia and it increases the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and depression,” the authors explain. “Social isolation might also result in cognitive inactivity, which is linked to faster cognitive decline and low mood. All these are risk factors for dementia themselves, which highlights the importance of considering the social engagement of older people and not only their physical and mental health.”

ABOUT DEMENTIADementia (derived from the Latin words de (out of) and mens (mind)) is characterised by a decline in cognitive level that affects activities of daily living or social functioning. Itaffects about 47 million people worldwide and this number is projected to triple by 2050.

Dementia is usually preceded by mild cognitive (where complex tasks can still be completed) impairment and the boundary between the two is grey.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many different kinds.

Healthier lifestyles are associated with declining prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia.While there is no cure, there is “good potential for prevention”.

To find out more about the Bondi2Berry Ride to Remember on September 9 or make a tax deductable donation,please visitbondi2berry南京夜网/donate

Stone’s Giant step forward

FORMER Knights coach Rick Stone has steered Huddersfield into the Super League play-offs – just 12 months after he saved them from relegation.

Last week’s 26-4 win over Leigh Centurions was the Giants’ sixth in seven games and lifted them toseventh, guaranteeing a berth in the Super 8’s this year.

“We have probably used 34 or 35 players and everyone has worked pretty hard, diligently, over a long period of time this year,’’ Stone said.

“We’ve had some times where we thought that it’s a long way up from where we were.

“We stuck at it, we stuck together, and we’ve gradually found a bit of belief and the last 10or 12weeks have been good.”

Stone was sacked by the Knights 18 games into the 2015 NRL season –his second stint in the head-coaching role – and was working ina part-time assistant’s position with the Roosters before he accepted the job with Huddersfield.

He has spent much of the past 12 months on the other side of the world to his wife and three sons, who remain based in Belmont.

“My familyare still at home and I miss them every day,” he said. “I missed watching my young bloke [Knights back-rower Sam Stone] make his NRL debut,which was tough, and I certainly miss living onLake Macquarie.”

It was a sacrifice the 50-year-oldfelt he had to make to pursue his career.

“I have really enjoyed my time since I have been here,” Stone said.

“Great people, terrific fans and a good style of rugby leagueto coach, play and watch.

“The depth is a bit thinner, considering there is not as many kids playing rugby league over here as there is in Australia.

“Not having a reserve grade is something a bit different and we have struggled to get our young lads a game.”

One of Stone’s early decisions was to recruit formerKnights fullback Jake Mamo, who started late after ankle surgery but repaid the faith with 12 tries in eight games.

But in a devastating blow for the club, Mamo suffered a foot injury earlier this monthand was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

“Jake has done an outstanding job here since he got over his [original] foot injury,” Stone said.

“On and off the fieldhe has been a big part of our mid-season revival here at theGiants.”

Stone said Mamo was an example of the opportunities available for import players in Super League.

“It’s a great experience for young players to travel the world and experience another culture,” he said.

“But the criteria over here is strict .

“You must play a high percentage of NRL games over your previous twoyears to get a visa.”

PROGRESS: Former Knights coach Rick Stone has steered Huddersfield into the Super League play-offs. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

New Liberal line-up firms

New Liberal line-up firms MAYORAL RUN: A Liberal party internal document names David Compton, pictured left,, as the party’s lord mayoral candidate. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

‘THINKING ABOUT IT’: Newcastle communications consultant Kath Elliott is considering running for Newcastle council. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

INCLUDED: Stalwart Liberal party Newcastle councillor Brad Luke is tipped to run again at the local government elections in September. Picture: Peter Stoop

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald.

The sitting ward four councillor and owner of construction firm Compton Projects failed to make inroads contesting the safe federal Labor seat, losing by 18 per cent of the vote.

Butwith high-profile Hunter conservatives such as former lord mayorJeff McCloy and former Paterson federal Liberal MPBob Baldwin declining to enter the race so far as independents, the Liberals mayconsiderit worthwhilerunninga mayoral candidate.

The Herald madeattemptsto contact Cr Compton on Wednesday. Also among the apparent Liberalnominees areLachlan Stronach, the son of developer Keith Stronach, party stalwarts Brad Luke and Sharon Waterhouse, and younger members Taylor Wright, Blake Keating and Hannah Eves.

Missing isformer Shortland federal candidateJohn Church,anex-NBN newsreader and nowhead of marketing at Newcastle real estate firm PRD whowas said to be favouredby senior party figuresforhis name recognition and policy nous.

Communicationsconsultant Kath Elliott also confirmed she isconsidering running for council.

“Of course I’m always thinking about it, I’ve done it before, but I haven’t made up my mind,” she said when contacted.

Ms Elliott contested the ward three byelection as an independentin 2015and was defeatedby Labor’s Declan Clausen byabout four per cent of the vote.

Controversy hit that contestwhen a pamphlet authorisedby the Labor party and widely distributed on the eve of the election questioned Ms Elliott’s political ties and included a photo of her superimposed with then Prime Minister Tony Abbott and MrMcCloy.

A phone survey conducted this month forthe Australian Hotels Association polled Newcastlevoters aboutfigures it framed as being tied to the upcoming elections.

The poll canvassed opinion onGreens councillor Michael Osborne, state Labor leader Luke Foley, former NBN presenter Mike Rabbitt,independent councillor Allan Robinson,lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes,Newcastle nightlife campaigner Tony Brown, former Liberal state and federal candidate Karen Howard, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Cr Luke,Mr McCloy and Mr Baldwin.

Ennis unleashes on struggling Bulldogs

Former captain Michael Ennis pulled no punches when describing Canterbury’s latest NRL loss.Former Canterbury captain Michael Ennis has let loose at the current roster, describing the Bulldogs’ weekend NRL mauling at the hands of the Gold Coast as “diabolical”.
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The Bulldogs have slipped to their worst start to a season in 54 years, with their chances of making the finals already effectively over with 10 rounds still to play.

Without Kieran Foran and Brett and Josh Morris, Saturday’s 32-10 loss at their spiritual home of Belmore was their worst of the season, prompting Ennis’ outburst.

“It was diabolical, their performance. It was so sad to see,” Ennis told Fox Sports’ Big League Wrap.

“Defensively they were atrocious in the opening half. They were down 22-0. Moses Mbye looked to be their only spark.

“What was on display on the weekend was not NRL standard. The performance of their spine was not NRL standard.

“They had endless opportunities inside a Gold Coast side that were averaging 26 points against heading into that game and they couldn’t score.”

Maligned for their attack during the Des Hasler era, the Bulldogs’ problems with ball in hand are almost at the same level as last season.

After the same amount of games in 2017, Canterbury have this year averaged just one extra point in attack to still rank 15th in that department.

But they have also let in an extra 2.5 points per game, contributing to their concerns as they bid to fight off what would be only the fifth wooden spoon in club history.

“I loved Dean Pay as a kid how he played. All the talk coming out of their over the summer was that the Dogs of War were going to come back,” Ennis said.

“But their defence wasn’t an issue. It was with their attack. And I’m not seeing any change in their attack.

“It’s block play after block play after forward dominance in attacking positions. Which we’ve seen for a number of years now.”

Canterbury have made moves in recent months to fix a roster that was handed to Pay by Hasler and the previous administration.

Moses Mbye will head to the Wests Tigers this week, while Aaron Woods could also be on the move.

But the former hooker questioned why Mbye was the man to move, given he leads the Bulldogs for linebreaks and tackle busts since moving to fullback this year.

“I don’t know why they’re letting Moses Mbye go,” Ennis said.

“Let some of the other big-name forwards go, bring some young kids through in the forward pack.

“And get some blokes in the spine who can for Christ’s sake put the ball over the line because the blokes who are there at the moment aren’t up to scratch.”

Australian Associated Press

Port unlikely to back Jack for AFL return

Port’s Jack Watts is not expected to get a recall to take on his old side Melbourne.High-profile Port Adelaide recruit Jack Watts will most likely miss out on a recall for the Friday night AFL blockbuster against his old club Melbourne.
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Watts was dropped last weekend after an inconsistent start to his debut season with the Power.

Impressive youngster Todd Marshall took Watts’ place and coach Ken Hinkley has forecast minimal – if any – changes after their wins over Richmond and the Western Bulldogs.

This is the first opportunity for Watts to play against his old club, where he was the 2008 No.1 draft pick.

He played 153 games for Melbourne and another 11 so far this season for the Power.

“Todd will play. Jack, we haven’t had selection yet, but we played pretty well last week,” Hinkley told Fox Footy.

“I’d imagine we’d be pretty close to (the) same.

“We brought Jack to the club for finish and that’s what we’re still looking for.”

Watts impressed in Port Adelaide’s SANFL win over Sturt on Sunday, kicking three goals.

“We watched him play yesterday in the (Port) Magpies and he played really well, he had an outstanding game,” Hinkley said.

“His finishing in really tough conditions was on show yesterday.

“We think he still has a lot to learn about the way we play and that will only help him become a better player.”

Friday night at Adelaide Oval is significant game, with only percentage separating fourth-placed Melbourne from the Power, who are seventh.

While Port are building momentum with a couple of good home wins, Melbourne are coming off a disappointing Queen’s Birthday loss to Collingwood.

“We certainly want to win this game of football, to put ourselves up in front of Melbourne and other sides,” Hinkley said.

“Friday night, a big stage again for Port Adelaide, it’s really important we play well.”

Hinkley also had high praise for Port star Robbie Gray, who had another big game last Thursday night and is among the Brownlow Medal contenders.

“He’s right up the top,” said Hinkley, formerly an assistant coach at Geelong and Gold Coast.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be around Junior – Gary (Ablett).

“He’s an outstanding player. Stevie J (Geelong great Steve Johnson) … Robbie’s not far away.

“He’s probably at least equal, he’s a pretty good player.”

Australian Associated Press

PM fires up as Labor confirms tax stance

Malcolm Turnbull has accused Labor of wanting to keep workers in their place after the opposition committed to rejecting a large part of his government’s personal income tax package.
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During a rowdy parliamentary question time, the prime minister launched into a tirade against the opposition saying Labor wanted to end “enterprise and aspiration”.

“Australians should be entitled to aspire to get ahead, to get a better job, to invest in their business, to make some real economic progress in their lives,” Mr Turnbull told MPs.

“It is what Labor used to stand for, but no more. This privileged elite opposite, they want to keep the workers in their place.”

Ahead of a Senate debate this week, the Labor caucus at a meeting on Tuesday unanimously agreed to only back the tax reductions that start on July 1 in the government’s seven-year, multi-stage tax package.

This comprises a new low-and middle-income tax offset worth up to $530 for individuals and an increase in the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000.

The opposition doesn’t support further reductions due in 2022 and 2024.

“If the Labor party is asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the total package – including stages two and three – we will vote ‘no’,” shadow treasurer Chris Bowen told reporters after the meeting.

Furthermore, if the coalition manages to get the entire package passed by the Senate, Labor plans to repeal stages two and three if it wins government which Mr Bowen described as “responsible”.

However, the government has repeatedly said it will not split the package that was announced in the May budget, saying it is all or nothing, setting up a high stakes game of political brinkmanship.

The coalition insists it “won’t be blinking” as the tax debate descends into a game of “chicken”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison took to social media to state the government’s case.

“Unless we take action now, in coming years Australians will have more of what they earn eaten away in higher taxes caused by bracket creep,” he said in a Facebook video.

He later described Labor’s stance as a “creep tax”.

While the Australian Greens support attempts to split the government’s income tax cuts they will vote against them regardless of whether or not the bill is amended.

Without the support of Labor and the Greens, the government could still get the cuts through with the help of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation or independent senator Tim Storer.

But while Senator Storer supports the first tranche of cuts, he too wants the package split and is hopeful the government will warm to his “prudent and sensible” plans.

Australian Associated Press

Falling jobless rate may lift confidence

RBA Governor Philip Lowe says there are some signs of wages growth moving in the right direction.New figures could show whether Australians are comforted by Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe’s remark that a three per cent wages growth rate is “possible and desirable”.
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Dr Lowe told a conference last week there are some signs of wages growth moving in that direction and that the laws of supply and demand are still at work.

Wage growth has been the missing link in Australia’s strengthening economy, presently running at an annual rate of 2.1 per cent and close to a two-decade low.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index is due on Tuesday – a pointer to future retail spending – which may capture the governor’s views on the outlook.

Last week the index jumped 5.6 per cent and to its highest level since mid-January following economic growth figures showing the economy expanding at its fastest pace in almost two years.

Since then the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 5.4 per cent.

This compares with conventional wisdom that puts full employment at around a five per cent unemployment rate.

Dr Lowe told the conference it is possible an even lower rate could be achieved if the five per cent mark is approached at a steady pace, rather than too quickly.

The central bank will also release the minutes of the June 5 board meeting on Tuesday, a gathering that again left the cash rate at a record low 1.5 per cent for another month.

Dr Lowe in his post-meeting statement said household consumption is a continuing source of uncertainty given slow income growth and high debt levels.

Economists also see falling house prices as a further detriment to confidence.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will also release its residential property price indexes for the March quarter.

Australian Associated Press

Deledio says he and GWS can fire in AFL

It’s been a mixed start for the Giants in 2018 but Brett Deledio reckons they can finish strongly.Despite their current AFL struggles, Brett Deledio is bullish about himself and GWS this season.
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Deledio aims for a senior comeback in round 17 – when the Giants play his old team Richmond – or the following week.

He has been out of action since last month because of another calf muscle injury.

GWS remain half a game as they come out of the bye on Saturday against Brisbane at the Gabba.

But they have won their last two matches and several key players are on the verge of easing their horrid run of injuries.

Stephen Coniglio (concussion) and Rory Lobb (ribs) might play this week, while Toby Greene (foot) and Tom Scully (ankle) are progressing in their rehabilitation.

Daniel Lloyd is also sidelined with a knee injury.

“You get those sorts of players back and the teams continues to play good footy, you know you only have to get it right at the end of the season to win it all,” he told Fox Footy.

“If we can get everyone humming come the end of the season and make the finals, I think we can give it a real shake, for sure.”

Deledio’s latest injury setback was a major blow, particularly given he had made a strong start to the season.

The 31-year-old asked if he considered retirement because of his latest injury and Deledio’s answer was emphatic.

“We’re starting to play some good footy … I’m looking forward to trying to get back into that senior side,” he said.

Deledio also replied to commentator Wayne Schwass, who said on the weekend that the AFL should abandon the GWS and Gold Coast expansion projects.

“It’s an interesting opinion – I’d be out of a job, first and foremost,” Deledio said.

“I’m not sure about that. The growth we’ve seen already – (and) I’ve seen certainly in the western Sydney region up here … that’s really important for us.

“I’m sure if we culled every team when they first started in the competition, there might not be that competition.”

Australian Associated Press

Cleary goes from Origin fan to dream maker

After attending NSW’s 2014 win as a fan, Nathan Cleary has a chance to lead NSW to Origin success.Nathan Cleary still has June 18, 2014 marked down as one of the best nights of his life.

Dressed in light blue shirt and donning a dark blue wig, a 16-year-old Cleary watched from the concourse at ANZ Stadium with the Blatchy’s Blues supporter group as NSW looked set to squander another series.

Then with one dummy and go, Trent Hodkinson crossed the tryline and ended eight years of misery.

“That was one of the best experiences of my life seeing Hodko go over there,” Cleary told AAP.

“I was at the game and in Blatchy’s Blues.

“It was unbelievable seeing them get the win and the crowd was going off. It was unreal.”

Four years on, Cleary now has the chance to join Hodkinson as one of only two Blues halfbacks to have tasted Origin series success since 2006.

In that time, some seven others have tried and failed. That list includes the likes of Craig Gower, Brett Kimmorley and James Maloney.

But Cleary is determined to make sure he doesn’t join it, instead dreaming of sending Sydney into the same kind of drought-breaking delirium of 2014 on Sunday night.

“Hopefully we can replicate something like that,” Cleary said.

“(Jarryd Hayne’s crowd surf) was right in front of us and that was awesome.”

Cleary wouldn’t have been alone in his excitement on that night some four years ago.

Had it not been for that victory, up to 16 of the 17 Blues selected for Origin II wouldn’t have seen NSW win a series in their adult life.

Five of the squad were still in primary school when the Blues tasted victory previous to that in 2005, with most still clinging onto faint memories of Andrew Johns’ heroics.

But all that can end on Sunday night, where the NRL is expecting a packed house and the Blatchy’s Blues allotment is rapidly approaching its capacity of 12,000.

Australian Associated Press

Slick West Coast not scared of the wet

Midfielder Elliot Yeo says West Coast will be ready to face Essendon if it’s a wet-weather contest.They’ve played some sizzling football in the sun, but West Coast will equally embrace the rain if Thursday night’s clash with Essendon turns into a wet-weather slog.

The Eagles sit second on the ladder following their 10-2 start to the year, with the team averaging 97 points per game this season.

That average improves to 106 at their new home ground Optus Stadium, where the Eagles have enjoyed mostly dry conditions this year.

That could change on Thursday night with rain forecast for Perth.

However, if the rain does eventuate, West Coast players will be ready.

“There’s plenty of times there where as you see throughout the week we have the footies out in the wet water,” midfielder Elliot Yeo said, referring to the team mimicking wet-weather conditions at training.

“If it is (raining), we’ve done our homework during the week and hopefully we’re able to implement that in the game.”

Yeo said the six-day break between games was a good thing, given the players were keen to atone for last week’s 15-point loss to Sydney.

“Personally I hate losing,” Yeo said.

“I’m not a big fan of it. But having the six-day turnaround, it gives you the quick turnaround to rectify.”

Essendon (5-7) enter the game fresh following their recent bye,

But despite winning three of their past four matches, their finals hopes are still hanging by a thread.

“They’ve been a bit up and down with their form,” Yeo said.

“But they had a good spurt not so long ago.

“Their midfield is one of the things that’s a bit of a danger.

“Once they get going, if they get the ball in their hands quite early, they can be quite damaging.”

Australian Associated Press

NSW budget surplus comes in at $3.9b

The NSW treasurer had revealed a budget surplus of $3.9 billion and promised to use “the holy grail of numbers” to address cost-of-living pressures across the state.

Despite losing more than $5.5 billion in stamp duty revenue the surplus for 2017/18 exceeded expectations by $600 million off the back of increased mining royalties and GST receipts.

Nine months out from the March 2019 state election, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Tuesday promised his 2018/19 budget would help ease cost-of-living pressures for families while maintaining a record $87 billion infrastructure spend.

NSW Treasurer Portrait of Dominic Perrotet. Photo: James Brickwood

The treasurer’s message focused on the hip pocket but more than half of government expenditure is flowing to the transport portfolio next financial year, including $4.3 billion for the Sydney Metro.

The controversial WestConnex motorway will receive $1.8 billion in 2018/19 while $258 million will kickstart the first stage of the Parramatta Light Rail.

In total, the coalition government will spend $51 billion on road and rail over the next four years.

Despite lacking any big ticket items for struggling families, the government has extended universal education access to three-year-olds, saving parents an average of $825 per year.

It has also cut certain parking fines and streamlined Service NSW, which it says will help residents to find the best energy deals.

“This is a budget that puts people first, it builds for tomorrow and delivers for today,” Mr Perrottet told reporters.

A $740 million upgrade to Liverpool Hospital headlines health spending with the government committing $8 billion over four years on upgrades and new facilities.

Some $17 billion will be spent on education in 2018/19 while $6 billion will be committed over four years to address a big increase in enrolments.

A sovereign wealth fund will also be created next year, starting with $3 billion, with 50 per cent of the interest generated each year going toward community projects.

Australian Associated Press

Gargasoulas fitness jury battling to agree

A Melbourne jury is struggling to come to a unanimous decision on whether Bourke Street driver James Gargasoulas is mentally fit to stand trial for murder.

Gargasoulas, 28, is accused of running down pedestrians in the city in January 2017, killing six people, including two children, and injuring many others.

He is facing an investigative Supreme Court hearing to decide if he is fit to face trial on six counts of murder and 28 of attempted murder.

A jury of 12 retired to consider their verdict on Monday, but on Tuesday afternoon sought guidance from Justice Lex Lasry, saying they were torn.

“I have been informed that you have not been able to reach a decision,” the judge said.

Justice Lasry said he could dismiss the jury without a verdict if they could not reach one but he was not yet ready to do so.

“Experience has shown that juries, given more time to discuss, can reach a verdict,” he said.

“That’s what I’m going to ask you to do. Come back in the morning, hopefully fresh.”

Justice Lasry urged the jury to share their feelings and listen to others, as their views may shift.

But he said they can’t change their minds simply for the sake of reaching a decision.

“To do that would breach your duty to the court,” he said.

Medical experts in the case have been divided over the question of Gargasoulas’s fitness.

Two psychiatrists believe he is unfit for trial but one psychologist disagrees.

The defence argues he is “profoundly psychotic”, believing he is the “Messiah” sent to save the world from a comet, and should not stand trial.

But prosecutors say Gargasoulas should face trial, claiming he understands his case and can make decisions about his defence and plea.

“(He) has the presence of mind to know that if it’s his lot in life to be saving the world, he wants to be doing that from the relative comfort of Thomas Embling Hospital, rather than the 23-hour lockdown of prison,’ crown prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC said.

The jury will continue deliberations on Wednesday.

Australian Associated Press

Farmers want better access to EU market

PM Malcolm Turnbull (left) and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom at Parliament House.Australia wants farmers to get better access to the European Union’s huge market when negotiations on a free trade deal start within weeks.

The nation’s top agricultural exports to the EU are canola, wine, greasy wool, beef and veal, and almonds, but that could expand once a deal is signed.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other ministers in Canberra on Monday to officially launch negotiations on a free trade deal.

The sticking point, as it has been for years, will be European producers unhappy with Australian companies using European names, and farmers worried about competition.

“Agriculture and what we call geographical indicators are very important to us,” Dr Malmstrom told reporters.

“I think this is probably the chapter that would be the most difficult one. But we are well-prepared.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the EU was Australia’s fourth-largest agricultural export destination, and reduced tariffs would only make it bigger.

“More high-quality Australian produce on EU dinner tables is a win for EU consumers and a win for our farmers, our rural and regional communities and our nation,” Mr Littleproud said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said Australian farmers were ready to compete on a fairer playing field in the EU.

“Australia exports about 75 per cent of its agricultural produce and our farmers are amongst the least subsidised in the world,” she said.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo hinted that high-quality agricultural products could be a big winner.

“I want to see more Australian premium produce on plates from Prague to Paris,” Mr Ciobo said.

The trade talks come as EU and Australia have become concerned about rising protectionism, especially in the United States and China.

Dr Malmstrom said the “predictability” of rules-based free trade had served Australia and the EU well.

“I think it sends a very strong political signal that we’re launching these negotiations today,” she said.

A free trade pact would open a market of half a billion consumers and a GDP of $23.2 trillion, making it one of Australia’s biggest agreements.

The first round of negotiations will be held in Brussels in early July.

Australian Associated Press