JOBS GOOD

Seventy-five percent of the working population is now employed after last year. Employment rose every month in 2017 — for the first time in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ recorded history — and roughly 400,000 new jobs were added to the market.

Following the release of ABS’ employment data yesterday, Fairfax papers report that the additional 35,000 people employed in December make 2017 the first full year of continual jobs growth since the bureau began recording monthly data in 1978. Of the new jobs, New South Wales created a whopping 140,000 and Victoria, lagging behind, just 87,000.

The Australian ($) also reports that the December increase makes 2017 the best year for employment growth in a decade, with the 400,000 new positions almost quadrupling the 109,000 jobs generated in 2016 and outstripping the peak of the resources boom. 

“Jobs and growth — the slogan for 2016 — was a big outcome this year,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said of the ABS figures during his Japan visit yesterday.  

In a reversal of a 2012-2016 trend that had more than two-thirds of new employees hired under part-time contracts, more than 300,000 of 2017’s new jobs were full time. The new employment figures were not, however, enough to stop unemployment rising from 5.4% in November to 5.5% in December.

CANCER SCHMANCER

In a breakthrough that could save millions from premature death, researchers have developed a “liquid biopsy” blood test that can detect early-stage tumours long before they turn lethal.

The Australian ($) reports that the test, dubbed “CancerSEEK”, can detect eight of the most common cancers from proteins and genetic mutations circulating in the blood. Lead by John Hopkins University in Baltimore, the test was developed by an international team that includes researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall institute.

Trials for the test were outlined this morning in the journal Science, and found that CancerSEEK reportedly surpasses previous screening methods in that it finds fledgling cancers in 70% of cases, finds up to 98% of types such as the often-unnoticed pancreatic cancer, delivers almost no false positives, and pinpoints tumours in about five cases out of six, enabling rapid treatment.

WEHI professor and oncologist Peter Gibbs described CancerSEEK’s capacity to hunt for multiple cancer types as a “breakthrough” for uncovering difficult-to-detect cancers such as pancreatic cancer, reportedly at stages where individual cells were still small.

The only blood screen widely used for cancer is a prostate-specific antigen test, which has attracted criticism for offering high false-positive rates (up to 75%). In contrast, trials for CancerSEEK have given less than 1% false positives, and while plans for larger control tests could take years, Gibbs predicts the biopsy (or something like it) could become commercially available within a year or two.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“I actually do enjoy their music. I don’t have to enjoy their political or social activism to say, ‘Hey, they’re talented, they’re Australian, and they’ve got some boppy little songs that I kind of enjoy’.”

— Senator Cory Bernardi, responding on Radio National to a prompt to “go fuck [him]self” from “Australian Conservatives 100” featured artists The Hilltop Hoods.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Popular pot plant causes string of serious ear injuries

Sam Dastyari poised to spruik for NSW unions ($)

A three day heatwave is rolling across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales

Kokoda Track porter’s death sparks concerns around overweight packs ($)

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Tasmania: State election expected to be called soon.

Sydney: NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman press conference to thank officers on National Corrections Day at Brush Farm Academy.

Brisbane: High Court directions hearing for Labor MP David Feeney and Senator Katy Gallagher, who are facing disqualification from parliament as the latest cases in Australia’s citizenship fiasco.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Will our national parks survive this government? — Mehreen Faruqi (The Age): “Whistleblowers have come forward with stories of hidden budget cuts, while staff have been blindsided by restructures that see experienced experts pushed out the door. The government’s claim to have added jobs at the NPWS is a smokescreen: after demotions, redundancies, and resignations see the departure of skilled career staff, new hires are made at a lower pay level, with fewer skill requirements.”

Bitcoin’s meltdown reveals the market’s irrational exuberance — Stephen Bartholomeusz (The Australian $): “The December ‘bubble’ in cryptocurrencies’ value has been compared with historical speculative manias like the South Sea and Dutch tulip bubbles. With a December peak 60 times its value three years ago, the bitcoin price ‘outperformed’, quite dramatically, all the more notable bubbles of the past.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Supply and remand: why are our prison populations ballooning?Jason Murphy: “The single biggest factor fattening the prison population is remand. Nearly a third of Australian prisoners are yet to be sentenced. They’re being locked up before they’re found guilty. Unsentenced prisoners have more than doubled in number from 6000 to 13,000 since 2007.”

Inside the spin: how accused harassers get ahead of the storyEmily Watkins: “It seems that there are two kinds of media crisis managers: those who will take almost any client who asks, and those who will not. Veteran spinner Toby Ralph, who has told Crikey in the past that he’d work for anyone who paid him, falls into the former category, telling us he’s only ever turned down two clients for ethical reasons.”

Carillion and Co expose serious flaws in outsourcing — Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane: “As if neoliberalism wasn’t in deep enough trouble across the West, now one of its foundational concepts is sinking into the mire in the UK. Outsourcing of government functions is at the heart of neoliberalism — from making services contestable to contracting out to outright privatisation, the idea that the private sector can get things done more efficiently and effectively is sacred writ.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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