Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Caring" Leftist government to make having babies more expensive

Hey Kevvy! Babies are future taxpayers, you know. That's why politicians kiss them. You need as many as you can get -- and middle class ones will probably yield more tax revenue eventually. And middle class mothers are going to be a lot less enthused about conceiving if you are going to push them into grotty and uncaring public hospitals. Middle class women can be very skittish about pregnancy decisions. They like to be treated with care and concern before, during and after childbirth.

And is class-war really in your best interests? Middle class people have got a lot of votes, you know. They outnumber the workers these days, in fact

PREGNANT women and those using IVF may have to pay up to $2000 more for their medical care under proposed Budget cuts that will slash middle-class welfare. The Rudd Government is considering a crackdown on the $300 million-a-year Medicare Safety Net scheme that helps more than 1.5 million sick and pregnant with their health costs. The scheme refunds 80 per cent of a person's medical bills once they spend more than $555 out of their own pocket. The threshold is $1111 for wealthier families, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The scheme's cost has blown out by more than $600 million, with studies showing it pays up to 63 times more money to the wealthy. Almost half the taxpayer money paid out in the scheme goes towards obstetrician and gynaecologist fees. Payouts to obstetricians and gynaecologists has increased by more than 400 per cent since the net was introduced in 2004.

To rein in the ballooning costs, obstetricians and gynaecologists have proposed the Government cut the patient refund from 80 per cent to just 66 per cent for pregnant women and those using IVF. The move would cut the rebates available to pregnant women from about $4000 to $3300. Women using IVF to conceive could have their rebates slashed by as much as $2000, from $9000 to $7000.

National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-president Dr David Molloy told The Daily Telegraph doctors recognised some control was needed on the scheme. His organisation wanted a "soft cap" rather than a means test. "One thing we don't want is a clumsy Budget night edict that will hurt patients," he said.

Human Services Minister Senator Joe Ludwig last week made it clear the Government was looking at changes to the safety net in next month's Budget. He told the Senate there was some suggestion the funding for obstetrics "is not being dealt with well". "We would take a look at how to crack down on that, because ... a report did highlight, particularly in the obstetrics area, that there are problems," he said. A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon refused to comment on Budget speculation yesterday.

Emma Keen, of Mittagong, gave birth to daughter Madeline on Saturday at North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney. Despite having private health insurance, she paid the gap on obstetrician fees and scans. "It's not cheap having a baby. Any bit you can get back helps," she said. Mrs Keen guessed she had spent thousands out of her own pocket. "You do hit the threshold pretty quickly," she said.


Is this more of Australia's "caring" socialist government at work?

They only care in response to publicity. Note that the lady seems to have had extensive contact with the government welfare agency over the matter but it took newspaper interest before they suddenly "discovered" that they could help her

THE wife of a man in hospital in a coma was told by Centrelink she would have to divorce him if he was to receive the full disability support pension. Paul Dodd requires around-the-clock care after suffering a brain injury on Christmas Day, 2007. He fell down a London stairwell on his honeymoon.

His wife Megan has spent the past year at her husband's Royal Brisbane Hospital bedside praying for the slightest movement in his body, all the while pleading for assistance from a government she feels "robbed" by. "On top of the grief of losing him, on top of the endless paperwork, the finances, and the responsibilities of guardianship, the one thing you think you could rely on is that if he needs a full pension that he would get it from Centrelink," Ms Dodd said yesterday.

But a Centrelink representative last week told Ms Dodd her job as a community fundraiser placed her over the income threshold that would allow Paul to receive a full pension. According to the Centrelink income test effective from March 20, the Dodds' combined income would need to be less than $240 a fortnight for him to receive a full pension.

As a married man, Mr Dodd receives between 30 and 40 per cent of the full pension, which helps cover the daily hospital costs. Ms Dodd had counted on Mr Dodd's full pension to pay for permanent aged-care accommodation.

She said she needs her job to pay the mortgage on their modest Brisbane flat. "We came to the end of the line and the Centrelink man told me my only option was to divorce Paul," she said.

A Community Services spokeswoman said there were provisions in social security law that allowed a member of a couple to be treated as single in special circumstances. Centrelink has now contacted Ms Dodd and is reviewing her situation.


More of that "drought" that the Warmists (such as Tim Flannery) were predicting a year or two ago

FLOODWATERS raging through the New South Wales north coast have forced the evacuation of people from at least 100 properties in Coffs Harbour and left thousands of other residents stranded. At some Coffs Harbour homes, water reached chest height, with the town receiving 370mm of rain in the 11 hours from 9am (AEDT) yesterday. "This has resulted in rapid rises in Coffs Creek approaching the levels of the record November 1996 flood,'' State Emergency Services spokesman Phil Campbell said.

The SES received calls for help from 400 people throughout the day. About 30 people trapped by floodwaters in homes or while travelling in motor vehicles had to be rescued. "The focus for the SES tonight is the protection of life and some delays in responding to non-life threatening calls is being experienced,'' Mr Campbell said yesterday. He recommended people shelter in their homes for the next six hours, "as travel through fast-flowing, deep floodwater during the dark is extremely dangerous".

Those who had been evacuated from their homes were sheltering at the Coffs Harbour RSL centre.

At Bellingen, south of Coffs Harbour, Mr Campbell said major flooding was likely to occur on the Bellinger River overnight. "That will result in the town being isolated for two to three days,'' Mr Campbell said. About 1700 residents would be isolated, he warned, while a further 1000 residents living upstream of Bellingen in the Darkwood and Kalang areas would also be affected. He said evacuations were also likely at Macksville, south of Coffs Harbour, on the Nambucca River.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said while there was a chance of heavy rain in the region today, it did not expect it would be as heavy as yesterday's downpour. At Boambee, south of Coffs Harbour, 149mm of rain fell between 1pm and 2pm yesterday. A BoM spokesman described it as a "one in a 100-year occurrence''. The highest rainfall was at Red Hill, west of Coffs Harbour, which received 380mm of rain in the 11 hours from 9am. About 240mm of the rain fell in the three-hour period between 1pm and 4pm.


Animalistic NSW government department

Dogs are allowed to travel on Sydney buses - transit officers got it wrong

In February last year, Pema the border collie watched from on board a near-empty bus heading into Sydney as her owner, Eedra Zey, was dragged off by police, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for refusing to get off the bus with her dog. She was travelling without incident, with a valid ticket issued by the bus driver who clearly saw her dog.

But the very next day the State Transit Authority and the Transport Minister revealed what few of its own drivers and transit officers seem to know - dogs and other pets are allowed on buses. The police dropped their charges, but not the transit authority.

But State Transit still issued Zey with an infringement notice for 'having animal on bus' and dragged the matter before the courts. State Transit even confirmed the driver had allowed Ms Zey and Pema on to the bus.

Finally, the matter was determined by the court and Ms. Zey was found 'not guilty'.


Read Eedra Zey's comment on the matter here. She should sue the b*stards. She seems to be a bit of an activist so maybe she will. Police who make the law up as they go along are deeply offensive.

How new labour laws will kill jobs

AFTER returning from the G20 summit in London, Kevin Rudd should hit the pause button on Julia Gillard's second round of workplace re-regulation. Otherwise, the Rudds will not want to get sick outside standard business hours. Their local chemist could be shut because of punishing new penalty rates imposed by Gillard's award "modernisation".

Before he left for overseas, Rudd was pinned down on the ABC's AM program on how pushing up the cost of labour through the new workplace legislation and the separate award modernisation would protect jobs. The Prime Minister had no answer. Gillard since has conceded that "there is a negative relationship between minimum wage increases and employment" and that "there is more reason to be concerned" about this as the economy slides into recession. The "biggest thing" on the Fair Pay Commission's agenda should be jobs, she says.

Until now, the FPC set up by John Howard has lifted the minimum wage in line with price inflation. Gillard's call for a "considered increase" from the FPC's scheduled July decision appears to mean a real cut to the minimum wage, possibly compensated by tax offsets for low income earners in the May budget.

Gillard talks of the FPC's decision as being important for "low-income Australians". But most of the 140,000 workers on the $543.87 federal minimum weekly wage are not in low-income households. They're typically students or second income earners. And most of the 1.3million working Australians on all minimum wages adjusted by the FPC decisions are paid considerably more than the $14.31 an hour federal minimum. They're onaward pay scales that stretch beyond $40 an hour and even into annual six figures.

This is the award system that Gillard has ordered the Industrial Relations Commission to modernise as it morphs into Fair Work Australia and as Howard's FPC bites the dust come July.

Unique to Australia, the award system is a sediment of compromises over countless industrial disputes stretching back more than a century. By one reckoning, there are 4053 different awards, containing 4000 pay scales and 105,000 job classifications, along with all sorts of detailed rules about penalty rates, meal breaks, overtime and loadings. The Striptease Industry Conditions Award provides a $20 loading for employees required to expose "nipples, buttocks or genitalia" in any "parade representing the employer's business".

But rather than relax the grip of the shambolic old award system and pay-scale structure, which the Fair Pay Commission planned to do, Gillard's exercise will tighten it. The new simpler to manage grid of pay scales, loadings and sundry conditions on Australian businesses and the 10.8 million people they employ will be reinforced into something more solid and more downwardly inflexible.

The exercise aims to structure awards around industries, largely reflecting the history of coverage disputes between the monopolistic trade unions that pay most of Labor's bills. But there will still be occupational awards across industries when occupational unions are institutionally strong enough, such as for metal maintenance workers, nurses and clerks. Emerging new industries such as call centres, web design and biotechnology will be more easily roped in through "common rule" and a catch-all award.

Rather than fashion flexible working arrangements around evolving business dynamics, the exercise inevitably reflects the mindset of the old system. So-called hard-won gains - such as the peculiar Australian award condition that workers must be paid 17.5 per cent more when they take annual leave - cannot be surrendered when times change. Instead, a union beachhead of higher pay and conditions wrung out of one vulnerable business or industry through collectively bargaining must be consolidated so it can be spread to the rest of the award system. And the new Fair Work Australia will run award test cases every few years, perhaps on maternity pay or sex "discrimination", which will insert new minimum award conditions to be obeyed by collective bargains.

Gillard's impossible decree that modernisation cannot cut employee conditions or push up employer costs predictably is producing the default position of levelling up. Casual employment has been the great escape from the system, particularly for service industries. Levelling up to the metal trades standard will impose a higher economy-wide casual loading of 25 per cent, which prices a lot of casual work out of business.

Two weeks ago, this column explained how the restaurant trade would be forced to operate under the "modernised" award designed for the more unionised hotel or pub industry, including penalty rates of up to 275 per cent for serving food on public holidays.

The IRC relented on its first bid to rope the pharmacy industry into the modern retail award based on the conditions won in big department stores. But the levelling up for the new Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 will mean an end to the modest penalty rates that until now have applied for casual pharmacy assistants and that have allowed many chemists to remain open outside standard business hours.

First, the new award will impose the new standard 25 per cent casual loading on top of full-time wages, which themselves will increase by up to 250 per cent for public holidays. For casuals, Saturday work after 9pm will attract a 150 per cent casual loading; Sunday work 200 per cent and public holidays 312.5 per cent.

Much of the pharmacy price structure is set by government regulation, reducing the scope to pass on such labour-cost increases. This will increase the pressure on chemists not to open at night, weekends and public holidays.

Gillard's department lamely claims that "the flexibilities and simplifications available through modern awards and the institutional framework should have a positive effect on business costs", whatever that means. But the new pharmacy award requires any "emergency" changes to a part-time pharmacy assistant's roster be made in writing 48 hours in advance. And it requires that any work done in excess of part-time rostered hours be at least time and a half.

Just as it has done for executive pay and maternity pay, the Government should put the Productivity Commission on to assessing what this award modernisation exercise and the in-the-bag Fair Work legislation will do for job creation and unemployment. That may give Rudd some answers.


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