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Monthly Archives: June 2019

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Can an affair save a marriage?

Photo: Steve BacconIn today’s society it is accepted that when we are in a relationship we have to be monogamous. Being monogamous is not always discussed or agreed on when a relationship starts – it is often just expected. In practice, however, many couples struggle with the concept.

As part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House this weekend, America’s leading sex-advice columnist Dan Savage will speak about one of his favourite theories, redefining the rules of marriage. He believes that monogamy can be restrictive, has become old-fashioned and is the reason for many unhappy relationships.

About two years ago he coined the term “monogamish” to refer to long-term committed relationships that bend the rules of monogamy with the consent of both parties. He believes we need a more flexible attitude within a relationship. As you might expect, he received an enormous amount of criticism, but he also received thousands of letters and emails from people thanking him for giving them permission to live in a non-traditional relationship they often felt guilty about.

Another more extreme opinion about infidelity was put forward last year by Catherine Hakim, a British social scientist who was educated in France and wrote the book The New Rules Of Marriage. She believes we should take our cue from the French, whom she claims are happier and have a more philosophical approach to adultery.

An unforgiving attitude to adultery is damaging married life in Britain and driving couples to divorce and children to suffer, she believes, and says that it is possible to have a successful affair where both parties are happier and no one is hurt. France and several other European countries have more accepting attitudes to infidelity and have lower divorce rates.

Hakim provoked quite a controversy when she said: “Anyone rejecting a fresh approach to marriage and adultery, with a new set of rules to go with it, fails to recognise the benefits of a revitalised sex life outside the home”. But unlike Savage, she believes that being honest and truthful about an affair can be hurtful and is not necessary. “Total discretion is the absolute rule – the other party should never find out.”

I am from The Netherlands and probably a bit more open-minded about infidelity than most, and believe that truly monogamous relationships are the exception, not the rule. What has changed over the years is that many people now wait to marry or settle down in their late twenties or early thirties. By then they will have had lots of sex through many relationships, flings or one-night stands. Suddenly they are expected never to have sex again with anybody else!

Statistics tell us that in Australia between 40 and 60 per cent of women and men will cheat at some time in their lives and I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage was higher. What has changed in the past decade is the way we are cheating; it has become easier than ever.

The typical affair we used to have started at work or within our circle of friends or acquaintances – now we have the internet. We can have steamy chat-room conversations with strangers and have cybersex with anybody who is keen. Internet affairs can involve sexually stimulating conversations or cybersex, which may include filming mutual masturbation with a web camera.

I have several clients who are taking part in this, especially women at home with young children and partners who work long hours. They tell me there is no physical sexual contact, it is exciting, it isn’t cheating and nobody will find out. But some studies suggest that online affairs can trigger emotional infidelity, and when found out can also trigger feelings of anger, jealousy and insecurity in the other partner.

In 2010 an internet dating site called Ashley Madison Australia was launched, which proved to be enormously popular. More than 500,000 people have joined, 40 per cent of them female. It was created especially for partnered people who want to have an affair with no strings attached. The slogan is Life is short – Have an affair!

One of my clients joined the site because he definitely doesn’t want to leave his wife and children, but their sex life had become non-existent. He met a woman who has no intention of leaving her husband either and they meet once a week.

However, there are so many shades of infidelity!

Is flirting with a colleague at work cheating? Is having a massage with a happy ending? Is masturbating looking at porn? Having sex with your partner and fantasising about Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie? What about texting or sexting? What about sending naked pictures to friends who are not your partner?

Is it possible to be monogamous, what do you think?

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Labor set to bury carbon tax

Labor is considering supporting the scrapping of the carbon tax to allow for a wider argument for action against climate change. Photo: Paul JonesAustralian politics: full coverage

Labor is expected to support axing the carbon tax, with senior figures – including leader Bill Shorten – now convinced that its case for action on climate change will be more easily sold if the politically toxic tax is abolished.

The opposition has been wrestling with what to do on the repeal of the tax, with some saying it must hold the line to show voters and demoralised supporters that it still stands for something.

But party leaders have progressed in their thinking to consider what the party should put to voters in the lead-up to the next election.

They argue that Labor proposed to ”terminate” the tax at the last election and to simply block its repeal would allow the government to continue to punish it politically.

Mr Shorten is also worried that continual focus on the tax will distract from serious flaws in the government’s $3.2 billion ”direct action” policy, which Labor will oppose.

Under direct action, taxpayer dollars are used to pay polluters to reduce emissions and to fund other initiatives in forestry, carbon capture and recycling.

A survey of economists by Fairfax Media found only two of 35 supported direct action over an emissions trading scheme, which uses a floating carbon price driven by the global market.

Labor will continue to back some form of carbon pricing but reserves the right to deliver its policy closer to the election. Meanwhile, it will scrutinise direct action.

Independent analysis of direct action suggests it will not be able to reduce emissions by the bipartisan target of 5 per cent by 2020 without more funding – which has been ruled out by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A senior Labor source said the party would not countenance weakening the target, amid concern that the legislation to repeal the carbon tax will change the status of the 5 per cent target from a legally enforceable cap to merely an aspiration.

”We are happy to get rid of the tax but we do think there should be a cap on pollution,” said one Labor insider.

Mr Abbott has made the repeal of the tax his legislative priority when Parliament resumes in two weeks. He has urged Labor to ”repent” and support the government.

A number of Labor sources acknowledge there has been a shift in sentiment since the election. Even so, the shadow cabinet is yet to finalise Labor’s position and wants to see the final shape of the government’s legislation before making any commitment.

Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, hinted strongly at the weekend that the option of backing the repeal bills was being considered, saying that the final policy ”will be informed by the fact that we took to the last election a commitment ourselves to terminate the carbon tax”.

John Scales of JWS Research said polling showed that the carbon tax had dominated the climate change debate in recent years and undermined support for action.

He said the tax was widely seen through the prism of former prime minister Julia Gillard’s broken promise when she introduced the impost, and through its impact on electricity and other prices.

Mr Abbott has already begun to call Mr Shorten ”Electricity Bill” as he goads him to support the repeal of the tax. With it gone, Mr Scales said Labor would have clear air to make direct action its target and to develop its alternative.

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Planning ‘U-turn’ risky, say building certifiers

Fast-track building approvals have been made more neighbour-friendly under legislation now before Parliament but private building certifiers are not happy.

Under the new planning bills, neighbours must be notified of a complying development application 14 days before approval, although they will still have no right to object. There is no such notification at present. This will extend the time in which applications must be approved by a council or private certifier, currently 10 days.

There will also be a mandatory notification to neighbours seven days before construction actually starts, up from two days.

Another amendment allows councils to amend the statewide complying development code to reflect the local character of their areas on issues such as placement of windows, privacy and light.

Complying development now accounts for more than 25 per cent of all development approvals in NSW and the government is aiming for a much higher target.

The Association of Accredited Certifiers has criticised the ”U-turn” on complying development, saying the changes will cause confusion.

”We cannot understand how the changes can possibly improve efficiency or streamline the processes,” said Jill Brookfield, the association’s executive officer.

There is a shortage of private certifiers and some are leaving the profession, citing too much risk and complexity in the system. According to one report, six certifiers handed back their accreditations last week.

”Certifiers are now saying to clients to get planning approval from the council and we will handle the construction certificate and certifying work. This reduces their liability,” said one certifier who did not wish to be named. ”Many are very nervous about issuing complying development certificates, especially in wealthy areas where neighbours have the resources to challenge their validity.”

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No victory but a job well done: Abbott

Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten laying wreaths during the Recognition Ceremony in Tarin Kowt. Photo: Andrew Meares Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten on the flight. Photo: Andrew Meares

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten meet with Afghan leaders after attending the Recognition Ceremony in Tarin Kowt. Photo: Andrew Meares

Abbott meets with troops. Photo: Andrew Meares

Tony Abbott came to Afghanistan on Monday to signal the end of the 12-year mission there and declare Australia’s longest war had failed to secure victory.

But he said it was a job well done and that it was time for the troops to come home.

Accompanied by Labor leader Bill Shorten, in what is the only bipartisan visit since Australia sent first sent troops 12 years ago, the Prime Minister did not believe victory could be claimed but that a positive difference was made.

“Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here,” he told assembled troops at the Tarin Kowt base.

“Our armed forces and our officials have done their duty. That duty never ends, although our duty here has.”

The Abbott government is also likely to adopt a hard line towards aid for Afghanistan after the last Australians leave next month.

While the previous Labor government declared Australia would maintain a strong aid presence beyond the withdrawal, Fairfax Media understands the Abbott government is not so keen.

There will be some assistance but a portion of the more than $4billion in cuts to the aid budget the Coalition promised before the election would be at the expense of Afghanistan. It is in recognition that with the Western forces gone, the country will resort to its centuries-old practice of being controlled by warlords.

One condition the government is keen to place on the spending of aid money is that the government has at least some say in its disbursement. In post-occupation Afghanistan, where the Taliban are expected to assume a dominant role, that is not considered a reality.

Mr Abbott visited Afghanistan three times as opposition leader, the most of any in that position. This visit, conducted with the now customary surprise and secrecy, will be his last and the last of any Australian prime minister, ending a tradition that began in 2005.

Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan has lasted four prime ministers and six opposition leaders, and has come at a price: 40 men killed, more than 200 wounded, and close to $8 billion spent.

More than 26 thousand service personnel have rotated through the country.

Mr Abbott told the troops the withdrawal would be “bitter sweet”.

“Sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home for Christmas, bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, and fathers and partners return”.

One claim of success from the visiting delegation was that the Australians had overseen the construction of more than 200 schools in Oruzgan, of which 26 were for girls, but questions remained as to how many were still functioning.

Afghan Interior Minister Mohammed Omer Daudzai told the ceremony the Australians “have been the best” of all who had served in the country.

“What ever they have been doing here … they have always put the Afghan people first.”

Oruzgan governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada said security had improved a lot but ”some threats still exist”.

Australia still has about 1000 personnel at Tarin Kowt, the base in the Oruzgan province. All are due to be home by Christmas. Beyond that, an undefined number of Special Forces will remain. They will relocate to Kandahar and Kabul and act as “trainers”.

On Monday’s visit, Mr Abbott and Mr Shorten laid wreaths during a ceremony to mark the imminent withdrawal and the lead role Australia has had since 2010 in looking after Oruzgan province.

Present at the ceremony were representatives from the nations that had variously served alongside Australian troops – the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, Slovenia, France and Singapore.

Mr Shorten also addressed the troops.

“The troops have taken the vow of absence and risk and of distance from families,” he said.

“There are no words to thank you for the sacrifice and the ordinariness of the life we take for granted.

“It will be a great homecoming for a tremendous job.”

The ceremony was held around the Camp Holland memorial wall, which features the names of the 40 Australians who died, along with another 74 US, Dutch and French troops who died in Oruzgan.

Controversially, the withdrawal plans included painting over the names of the fallen soldiers and the three large concrete panels on which they are inscribed will be broken up and buried.

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Eating for health: the Mediterranean diet

The good oil: capsicums stuffed with egg and feta. Greek salad.

Greek salad.

None of the ingredients featured in Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos’s The Mediterranean Diet have scary chemical names or need numeric identification.

Instead, the core components of the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, leafy greens, eggs, fruit and nuts, legumes, fermented dairy products, seafood, a small amount of red meat and a minuscule amount of sugar.

As head of the department and associate professor in dietetics and human nutrition at LaTrobe University, Itsiopoulos’s book, published in August, is a happy nod to both her Greek heritage and more than two decades of dedicated research into the Mediterranean diet.

“Most of the recipes used in the book were provided by either my mum or my mum-in-law,” says Itsiopoulos, who, as well as being a passionate home cook, has more than 25 years of clinical and academic nutrition experience.

“I’ve grown up on this diet but it wasn’t until I graduated from dietetics that I looked at this way of eating from a research perspective. Research conducted over the past 60 years has proven the diet can promote weight loss, aid cancer recovery, slow Alzheimer’s, prevent diabetes, heart disease and promote longevity,” says Itsiopoulos, whose parents migrated to Australia from Greece in the 1960s.

Itsiopoulos who, at 170cm, has weighed between 58 and 62 kilograms all her adult life and has a BMI of 21, is a walking advertisement for the diet.

The 50-year-old believes it’s the ubiquitous olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet more satisfying than a low-fat diet and therefore easier to adhere to. As well as a traditional menu, there is a weight-loss menu with a daily kilojoule intake of 7000 kilojoules (which includes dishes high in fibre, vitamin C and folate and low in kilojoules) and a healthy menu for chronic disease prevention.

“People do not eat excess calories on this diet because that drizzle of extra virgin olive oil makes it so satisfying. It’s a lifestyle diet. Yes, it works because it’s palatable but it also works because it encourages you to slow down and eat in a social environment. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a way of life,” she says.

A review article published this year, in the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine, entitled ”Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea” (PREDIMED) ranked a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts as the model most likely to provide protection against coronary heart disease.

The April edition reported the results of the study, which surveyed 7447 people aged 55 to 80 – some of whom were at high cardiovascular risk – over 4.8 years:

“Salient components of the Mediterranean diet reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol [mostly from wine], low consumption of meat and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil.”

While Itsiopoulos concedes many people living in the countries that surround the Mediterranean have moved away from healthy eating patterns, her own research was based on the traditional timeworn peasant-style diet. Her major research interest lies in the positive effects of this diet in a society that faces a rising incidence of lifestyle-related diseases.

“The diet that is the most-often prescribed diet in the world and the one that is most often quoted in scientific studies is the Cretan-Mediterranean diet that originated from the island of Crete following World War II. Research has found that people eating this diet had almost no traces of heart disease,” says Itsiopoulos, who lives in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds with her Greek-Australian husband Savvas Koutsis and teenage daughters Tiana and Vivienne.

Itsiopoulos says research backed by science has also shown that, despite being high in fat, the Mediterranean diet – which was heritage-listed by UNESCO in 2010 – uses olive oil rather than butter, which does not necessarily lead to weight gain.

“The one key ingredient that binds all the diets of the Mediterranean is olive oil, which is well known for its role in the prevention of heart disease.

”There’s also less meat, more veg,” says Itsiopoulos, whose findings have been published in journals such as Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases and the Journal of Hepatology.

“Although the diet is high in fat, it’s also high in fibre, with almost a kilogram of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, small portions of lean meat, a regular intake of fish and snacks of dried fruit, nuts and yoghurt,” she says.

Traditional Greek-Mediterranean recipes featured in the book include: favas santorinis (split pea dip), keftedakia (little meatballs), dolmathakia (vegetarian-stuffed vineleaves) and fassoulada (white bean soup). Itsiopoulous has also modified many of the heavier mains, such as moussaka, to feature grilled vegetables over meat as the “heroes of the dish”.

“Making eating a pleasure is one of the cornerstones of the diet. You don’t feel like you are missing out,” she says.

The Mediterranean Diet (published by Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99).Mini vine capsicums stuffed with egg and feta (Piperies gemistes)

These impressive little morsels of brightly coloured capsicums filled with feta cheese and egg make great mezze for parties or nibbles.

They can be pre-cooked and eaten at room temperature or warmed in oven/microwave. Great in a lunchbox the following day.

200 g feta cheese, crumbled¼  tsp white pepper, or to taste1 egg¼ cup (60 ml) milk1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley12 mini vine capsicums, slit on one side lengthways, seeds removed50 ml olive oilSide salad, to servePreheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced).

1. Combine feta, pepper, egg, milk and parsley in a bowl and stir well.2. Arrange capsicum in an oiled baking dish with open side facing up,stuff with egg and cheese mixture and pour half a cup of boiling water in bottom of baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil.3. Bake for 30-40 minutes checking if the capsicum are cooked through and lightly browned on top.4. Serve with a salad or as finger food.Serves 4 as light meal.

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