Random Analytica

Charts, Infographics & Analysis without the spin

Tag: Australia

4. Mefloquine Dispatches: Harley Quinn, 1997

I’m told by my GP that PTSD is just like shrapnel. Only this year did I learn that I had shrapnel in my arm back in the 90s. I don’t believe in PTSD. Now I’m trying to remove it from my head.

Not all memories are awful. Some are wonderful.

It’s late 1997. I’m doing my Secret Squirrel course in Melbourne. I’m seeing three different women in Townsville, which is unusual for me. I am operating on muscle memory and I’m certainly not looking for love.

We meet in the gym. I feel underweight for Special Forces. I’m eating seven meals a day. I work out morning and night. I still don’t feel right.

She is with two friends from other postings. I know her friends well enough to walk over and start a conversation. One of the girls is a great rugby player who also happens to be gay. She doesn’t make a big deal about it because homosexuality is still banned by the Army. The other girl has a beautiful face and a kind smile for anyone. A decade later I hear (third-hand) that she got ‘schrapped’ in the Sands on patrol with the Boys. Her face is now damaged.

I feel so sorry for everyone who carries scars now.

It’s late 1997 again. I start to chat to Harley Quinn. I know her but not well. Like most people in the peace-time Army everyone knows everyone after a few years, especially in your own Corps. I think we last caught up in Darwin in 95 but I can’t quite remember. I take a break from my work-out. We start to talk. She gets a constant stream of interruptions. She is not classically beautiful but she has a natural attractiveness that draws admirers. She knows everyone. She talks easily with those who deserve it. Dismisses time-wasters. She commands attention. She is in the prime of her youth. I get a lift from our conversation. By her presence. We all agree to meet at the mess for dinner.

A fortnight later we are in a trinity of nightclubs. It’s just Harley Quinn and me. Our friends cannot keep up. We move from one nightclub to the next and then back again. We dance for hours. We laugh with absolute joy.

We leave the building with our friends. We are both spent. The sun is out. The light surprises us both. I think we have both fallen hard. We hold hands. We really hold hands. It’s a special moment. The future looks bright.

Tears stream down my face as I have this memory yesterday. I use movement to guide the memories. I remember back to 1997. As I dance away I still don’t know anything about mefloquine. I certainly don’t know I was given it six-months previously. My face hasn’t turned red yet. That doesn’t happen for another decade and a half. I’m slowly turning into The Joker but I think I’m fine.

I get more memories of my Harley Quinn. We break up in 1999. It’s a hard break-up. A horror story for another day. She has been deployed to Bougainville on Operation BEL-ISI. The Australian Defence Force is testing a new anti-malarial drug on the troops. The Generals are excited about its potential. It’s called Tafenoquine.

It has a nickname too. Mefloquine 2.0

191021_Image_HarleyQuinn

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

 

If you or anyone you know of a veteran who needs help I would strongly suggest you reach out to Open Arms 1800 011 046.

3. Mefloquine Dispatches: Raven, 1990s

It really kicked off in early 2019. The vivid memories have been replaced by flashbacks. It’s hard to describe. I try to explain it to 11M. It comes and goes in waves. He is both interested and worried. As far as they know I never went to war. I’m almost certain they are right but I’m trawling through the evidence now. There isn’t much. I never kept many photos. I certainly didn’t share them with the kids. Now, all of my memories are questioned. It was so long ago.

My 14M gets involved. We get side-tracked. We are discussing Bruce Lee for some reason. My mind flips to another memory. I remember his son dying on the set of Raven.

“Raven”, I say excitedly. We used Raven radios after we got rid of the PRC-77s. The terminology is coming back because my advocate wants me to apply for my back and hips.

The three of us jump on the computer. 14M loves electronics and Army radio’s make for an interesting breakfast topic.

I type in ‘raven radio Australian Army’. There are four lines of pictures shown. I’m explaining to 14M about how the Army was finally starting to go digital in the early 90s when my 8M comes up to give me a hug.

“Look at this guy Dad”. He points at a young soldier talking on a radio. It’s on the second line of photos.

I look. “It’s ME!” A ghost from 1992 I think. I haven’t seen this photo for almost 30-years. I get an image of CPL S* straight away. It’s the hill behind the Squadron. He isn’t in this picture but he will be close-by. The last time I really talked to him was at Campbell Barracks in 1997. He touched base via social media a few years previously. We talked about dead friends. I closed that social media account not long after. Too many ghosts reaching out.

“The chopper is on the next hill, Digger…”

Grange

Image: Google

 

If you or anyone you know of a veteran who needs help I would strongly suggest you reach out to Open Arms 1800 011 046.

My Request to Darren Chester

Dear Minister,

A few things.

I’m politely requesting access to the comprehensive health-assessment you said would be up and running by 1 July 2019.

I’m formally asking that your Department reach out to the Company Group that was assigned to Operation BARITONE redeploying from Tandem Thrust 97 then on to Garbutt on the 22nd March 1997. We were stood down a few days later. On the 30th May 2019 I provided compelling evidence that we received mefloquine via my Red Cross records.

Also… We weren’t the only Operation deploying to a malarial zone on short notice or by plane, let alone Butterworth! Are you reaching out to veterans? I’d suggest you might want to reach out to the advance party for Operation SOLACE as a starting point. Don’t worry about contacting my Troop Sergeant though. The last time I saw him was maybe a decade ago. He was screaming at me like some emaciated ghost in a train as we were arriving Roma Street. ‘GIVE ME YOUR F****** HEART GRANGE, YOU HAD A PRETTY GOOD HEART YOU C***’ while I held my son against a wall for safety.

I didn’t help him. I simply fled with my son. For years I thought it was another nightmare.

One of the Boys told me last week he is now dead.

I leave it to your conscience.

 

My request via Twitter dated 9th September 2019.

Note: The past six months have been a roller-coaster since I found out that I was given a mefloquine loading dose preparing for an insertion into Port Moresby on the 22nd March 1997. After providing countless people and organisations the information needed to get the rest of the Boys the help they deserve I have struck out alone.

190909_Tweet_Requests

Background documents provided via Twitter 10th September 2019.

Note: My SRCA determination circa 2000. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) process back in the 1990s was absolutely brutal. Recent improvements to service delivery such as the access to a White Card for any veteran and the Opens Arms network are fantastic and life-saving initiatives.

 

First set of background documents provided via Twitter 11th September 2019.

Note: If the SRCA process was bad the appeal process put in by the Army in the late 1990s and early 2000s was downright draconian. Days after I kick-off in late 1998 I collapse into a complete blubbering wreck, completely alone and a danger to myself. I’m desperately asking for help. They send me a priest to talk me down and hand myself in. Never once was I offered counselling or given a mental health assessment. It’s 1998 and the ADF isn’t worried about its operational tempo. It certainly doesn’t talk about mental health; it’s just a disciplinary matter.

It is a peace time Army.

 

Second set of background documents provided via Twitter 11th September 2019.

Note: Only today (11th Sep 2019) while working on this update did I have a distinct memory of verbally giving the medic my Date of Birth on Discharge for my full body rash. They had only just introduced a new computerised system into the Lavarack Base Medical Centre (LBMC). Before that you used to have to add your own pages and write your details down but for blokes like me who were always in a bit of a rush you pre-filled a couple while you were hanging around the Regimental Aid Post (RAP).

 

Background documents provided via Twitter 13th September 2019.

1. Mefloquine Dispatches: The First Asylum, 1997

I wake up. I’ve managed to snatch a few minutes or hours of blessed sleep. I haven’t slept in a couple of days. I’ve got a whole body rash. In and out of baths. Can’t stop scratching. If that’s not bad enough I can’t sleep. Don’t know why. I blame the itching but I’m pretty wired. My hands are covered in fine scratches. Don’t know what happened there?

I’m bored. I look around for some alcohol swabs. There’s none near my bed but the little box is in its place, it’s just empty. I find another bed, same story. I don’t want to pinch the other bloke in the wards stuff but I’m desperate. I peek over. His are gone too. Curious I go out for a walk to find the duty medic. I know her. We lived together in the same Barracks when I was posted to the BASC unit the previous year.

“Hey T*, you got any alcohol swabs?”

“Sure” she says. She comes over and checks my hands. “Ouch, I saw these when you came in”. She smiles. “Must have been a bit of a scrap”.

I just smile. It’s all a bit fuzzy.

“Anyway, I shouldn’t tell you… but you know that that bloke in the ward with you?”

“Yeah” I reply. I’m interested now. I’ve always loved gossip.

I lay my hands flat on the counter while T* gently cleans the fine wounds. It stings a little.

“Ok, the reason why you don’t have any alcohol swabs is that bloke has been chewing them all. We had to take all the alcohol swabs out of the ward. Must have a big drinking problem”.

I shrug “Makes sense, I suppose”.

Not really but I see lots of silly shit in the Army.

– Recent memory recall. I believe this is me talking to Private T* on either 27th or 28th April 1997.

—– —– —– —– —– —– —– —–

My 9-year old son recently asked me whether I was stupid to have joined the Army. I told him honestly that I loved the Army and I would still have run towards those planes. I say this even after everything that has happened since.

It’s not all negative. I’m not just interested in Mefloquine. You cannot mention mefloquine in Australia without talking about Tafenoquine. It might be just my binary nature but I’m also now also interested in all things that might end malaria. Always end on a positive.

If you or anyone you know of a veteran who needs help I would strongly suggest you reach out to Open Arms 1800 011 046.

They have been a lifesaver this time around.

Mefloquine and Tafenoquine use by the Australian Defence Force 1990 – 2017

Mefloquine and Tafenoquine are two different types of anti-malarial drugs that have been in use potentially as far back as 1990 but trialled extensively by the Australian Defence Force at the turn of the century. From 2016 via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Defence force admits soldier shouldn’t have been included in East Timor anti-malaria drug trial. Excerpt:

The Australian Defence Force has acknowledged it accidentally exposed one of its soldiers to controversial anti-malarial drugs during trials in East Timor, despite the soldier having a medical history of mental illness which should have precluded his involvement.

The soldier, Chris Salter, developed chronic depression and psychosis after inclusion in the Timor trials of psychoactive drugs mefloquine and tafenoquine.His illness has led to repeated suicide attempts and more than a dozen stays in psychiatric hospitals. He is unable to work or care for his family.

Since the trials, which included thousands of Australian soldiers between 2001 and 2003, a small group of veterans have developed severe mental illnesses. They believe the ADF erred by giving them the drugs even though there was a significant body of research which pointed to the drugs’ side effects, which in some cases are permanent.

I just wanted to get a chart posted which highlighted the use of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in Australian soldiers over the past 30-years. Currently most of the documentation concentrates on the trials conducted between 1998 – 2002, however there is some evidence that groups of soldiers were subjected to trials of mefloquine as far back as 1992 during Operation SOLACE (Somalia). I’ll update the chart as new information comes to hand.

Mefloquine~TafenoquineUsebyADF1990-2017

Explanatory Notes:

1992-93: Somalia – Awaiting more information
1993: Cambodia – Awaiting more information
1994-96: Rwanda – One confirmed mefloquine dosage. Awaiting more info
1997: PNG – One confirmed mefloquine dosage. Awaiting more info
1998: Bougainville – Peace Monitoring Group – 201 troops given Tafenoquine (note: Stuart McCarthy’s notes state 374 troops were given Tafenoquine).
2000: East Timor – 639 troops given Tafenoquine during trials.
2000: East Timor – 162 troops given Mefloquine during the Double-Blind trial
2000: East Timor – 492 troops given Tafenoquine during the Double-Blind trial
2001: Australia – 31 troops given Tafenoquine to test for Relapse Prevention
2001: East Timor – 1,157 troops given Mefloquine during the last major trial of the drug

An excellent resource for understanding the trial intensity of both anti-malarial drugs is Stuart McCarthy’s Summary of ADF Mefloquine and Tafenoquine Clinical Trials 1998 – 2002. See attached:

150724_Summary_SMcCarthy_ClinicalTrials

Data Sources

  1. Mefloquine http://www.defence.gov.au/Health/HealthPortal/Malaria/Anti-malarial_medications/Mefloquine/default.asp
  2. Randomized, double-blind study of the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of tafenoquine versus mefloquine for malaria prophylaxis in nonimmune subjects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19995933
  3. Summary of ADF Mefloquine and Tafenoquine Clinical Trials 1998 – 2002 https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Mefloquine/Submissions
  4. TGA Approvals for Australian Defence Force Use of Mefloquine in Townsville (Queensland) and Somalia, 1992-93 https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/tga_approvals_for_australian_def

Measles in Australia (as at 18th April 2019)

I’ve been watching the news about various measles outbreaks across the globe and wondered how badly Australia had been impacted (or infected). After reading a few articles it dawned on me that no single entity looked after the data as it was a state or territory issue and each state reported infectious diseases differently. Not best practice for highly infectious diseases.

In terms of the measles numbers for Australia. I have put a tentative number of 109 across all states and territories. That eclipses last year’s total of 103 cases and the 81 cases recorded in 2017.

190418_Infographic_Measles_Australia

The State by State breakdown with links

If we have broken the measles record for recent years in the first four months one can only guess at the eventual total. One to watch…

45th Parliament of Australia Suspensions (Hon Tony Smith MP)

Here is a look at the 45th Parliament where the Honourable Tony Smith quietly overtook the Honourable Bronwyn Bishop as the Speaker who has delivered the most two-hour suspensions via the 94(a) ruling. Interestingly, Tony Smith did not ‘name’ anyone during the 45th Parliament. Naming a sitting member means a 24-hour or 94(b) suspension.

190412_Chart_45thParliamentSuspensions

In the 166-days parliamentary days that Tony Smith occupied the Speakers chair he averaged 2.5 suspensions per day. His suspension average topped >3 between the 7th September to 18th October 2017 with his highest average of 3.08 recorded on the 14th September 2017. Members of the opposition represented 95.9% of his suspensions with only 17 Coalition members asked to take a 2-hour break. Anthony Pasin was the most removed MP from the Coalition with four suspensions.

190412_Chart_45thParliamentALPSuspensions

In the naughty corner the most for the 45th Parliament was the member for Bruce, Julian Hill who received 29 two-hour suspensions. The most suspended female from the ALP benches was a tie between Emma Husar and Terri Butler with 21 apiece.

An interesting data point: When Emma Husar initially reached 21-suspensions on the 19th June 2018, her colleague Julian Hill had only 19-suspensions. I suspect if Emma didn’t get caught up in an internal investigation, she may have been the most suspended member for this Parliament.

Now to that election…

Data Sources

  1. Parliament of Australia. House Hansard. Accessed 12th April 2019.
  2. Parliament of Australia. Hon Tony Smith MP (Image). Accessed 12th April 2019.
  3. Parliament of Australia. Mr Julian Hill, MP (Image). Accessed 12th April 2019
  4. Parliament of Australia. Ms Emma Husar (Image). Accessed 12th April 2019

Australian Parliament Suspensions by the Speaker 1996 – 2019

A quick-fire chart this week but notable because Scott Morrison has just called the election for the 18th May 2019.

190411_Chart_SuspensionsBySpeaker

The Member for Casey, Tony Smith who has acted in the role of the Speaker since 10th August 2015 has quietly delivered the most suspensions since the inception of the 94(a) rule. He has averaged 2.5 suspensions per sitting day.

It will take me a couple of days to work though the 45th Parliament data. Questions that will be answered will include who was the most suspended Parliamentarian on both sides of the house.

 

Data Sources

  1. Parliament of Australia. House Hansard. Accessed 11th April 2019.

44th Parliament of Australia Suspensions (Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP vs. Hon Tony Smith MP)

As the 45th Parliament comes to an end I was reflecting on what a good job the Honourable Tony Smith MP has done as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Before I could look at the current Parliament I thought it might be worthwhile finalising my data from the previous 44th Parliament (Nov 2013 – May 2016).

190403_Infographic_44thParliament

190404_Image_KeyStatistics

Here’s a look at the Top 12 MPs who were suspended according to standing order 94(a) during the 44th Parliament.

190403_Infographic_44thParliament_Top12

The Member for Wakefield, Nick Champion finished the 44th Parliament with the most suspensions (70). He beat his colleague, the Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett (55) with the former Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus coming third (36). The woman most often suspended was the Member for Griffith, Terri Butler with 34 suspensions.

Now to crunch that 45th Parliament data…

Data Sources

  1. Parliament of Australia. House Hansard. Accessed 2-3rd April 2019.
  2. Parliament of Australia. Mr Nick Champion MP (Image). Accessed 4th April 2019.
  3. Parliament of Australia. Ms Terri Butler MP (Image). Accessed 4th April 2019.
  4. Wikipedia. Bronwyn Bishop (Image). Accessed 3rd April 2019.
  5. Wikipedia. Tony Smith (Victorian politician) (Image). Accessed 3rd April 2019.

Random Analytica: Centrelink Call Wait Times 2006 – 2017

It seems almost heretical now but just a decade ago you could call Centrelink and get your phone answered in less than 2 ½-minutes (*most of the time). In fact, data collected by Centrelink in 2006-2007 showed that the average wait time of callers was just 1-minute and 50-seconds and that 71.6% of all calls were answered in the first 150-seconds.

Then something happened in 2008 to the way Centrelink reported its data.

Centrelink felt that it was so good at answering your calls within a few minutes it abandoned its Average Speed of Answer (ASA) reporting metric and amended its Call Answered from 150-second to 180-seconds.

For those too young to remember back in 2007 the iPhone only came on the scene in June 2007, so most people would call a government department via a landline (sometimes sneakily from work) or go to visit the relevant Government department and talk to a real person in their lunch-hour or on their day-off, especially if they worked part-time.

How did that work out for Centrelink?

ASA

The funky Calls Answered in 180-seconds metric was abandoned just one year after it was implemented and the Department of Human Services completely abandoned the 150-seconds metric from 2010/11. I suspect when more than 50% of calls don’t get answered within that timeframe you either need to review your service model OR you change your metric.

In the meantime the Average Speed of Answer (ASA) wait time blew-out from 1-minute and 50-seconds in 2007 to 15-minutes and 44-seconds in 2017. That’s an official 8.5x increase!

I’m sceptical about the Department answering a call within 16-minutes.

I had to ring Centrelink today. Everyone I talked too who has to deal with the Department told me to ring early but be prepared to wait a long-time.

I rang early (8.05am) and I was prepared to wait putting aside contract work for the express purpose of updating my details.

My call was answered an hour later (plenty of time to do the above chart)…

Phone

Random Analytica: Introducing the First Chance Average to Cricket

In cricket statistics, a batters average is calculated by the amount of runs they have scored divided by their dismissals (i.e. 1000-runs/20-dismissals = Average of 50). The First Chance Average or FCA is determined by the number of Earned Runs divided by their dismissal OR chances. Chances are discretionary but they must be legitimate, i.e. a dropped catch, a legitimate missed stumping or a dismissal from a no-ball (so hitting a ball through the slips when there are no slippers doesn’t count as a chance). Runs coming after a chance are recorded as First Chance runs and are omitted from FCA calculations.

History

The metric was originally developed by myself (Shane Granger) over the 2013-2014 summer with inputs from two very smart colleagues, Adrian Storen and Daryn Webster using the Earned Run Average metric in baseball as a concept model. At the time it was trying to answer some questions about the batting of both Shane Watson and David Warner.

With David Warner giving up three very big chances during that summer the FCA was going to get a mention on the ABC sport show Offsiders BUT David Warner’s run of chances stopped at Johannesburg and the FCA missed its debut.

The First Chance Average for cricket was discarded… Or was it?

During the 2017-2018 Summer I decided to re-invigorate the First Chance Average by improving the metrics to exclude multiple chances and include volatility which answered the questions about David Warner back in 2014. These simple changes made the metric more robust while changing the graphic to look and feel like a standard average allowing for greater clarity. The new datasets used for the Australian tour of South Africa were also a ten-fold increase on what I developed in 2014 and were able to show a team picture rather than focus on anyone individual.

The Example (Adam Voges)

AdamVoges

Adam Voges is a great example because over his short career he only had two chances but they were significant.

In his debut innings at Roseau against the West Indies Adam scored 130*, thus he didn’t qualify for an average as he did not have a dismissal. However his First Chance Average was 57 as he was dropped. Because he had 57 Earned Runs and 73 First Chance Runs his volatility was a very high 56.2%. As his first score was 130* the difference between Earned Runs and First Chance Runs are split between Green/Red in the chart.

In his second innings Adam was dismissed for 37 without a chance, so his score is in blue. His Standard Average is now 167, (167 runs with one dismissal) while his First Chance Average is now 47 (94 runs with two dismissals). His volatility dropped to 43.7%.

In his third innings Adam was dismissed for 31 without a chance, so his score is in blue. His Standard Average is now 99, (198 runs with two dismissals) while his First Chance Average is now 41.67 (125 runs with three dismissals) His volatility continues to decrease to 36.9%.

By the time Adam finished his short career he had just two chances but the difference between his Standard Average and First Chance Average was reasonably significant. To answer this question I introduced volatility, which is a measurement to see whether a batter First Chance Runs are increasing or decreasing. In the end Adam Voges volatility was decreasing but so was his Standard Average and his last big score was 7 Earned Runs compared to 232 First Chance Runs.