Sunday, June 07, 2009

More government means less healthcare

This week the headlines announced that Australia’s ‘free’ health system was in danger of being replaced with a ‘US-style’ user pay system because out of control growth in the cost of the NSW public hospital system will drain the State’s coffers. So NSW Health has come up with a new and radical plan (it is neither) to save Medicare.

When we think about the coming crisis of Medicare, we usually think of the impact of new medical technology that can do more things for more patients, especially elderly patients. But in relation to public hospitals, the crisis is now and more fundamental. Despite ever escalating government funding for the system, bills are not paid, patients are not properly fed, and there aren’t enough beds to treat emergency patients, let alone elective patients, in a timely manner.

We know who and what is to blame for the ‘hospital crisis.’ Like all government bureaucracies that are responsible for delivering public services, NSW Health and the area health services that run public hospitals are incapable, of controlling costs, increasing efficiency, or improving quality.

So the bureaucracy is now looking for a financial bail-out – using a dishonest scare about ‘US-style’ health and jokes about ‘slashing red tape’ to grease the political wheels.

NSW Health’s plan to save Medicare is for all Commonwealth and state hospital and health funding, including the money used to fund bulk-billed GP care, to be cashed out, ‘pooled,’ and distributed to regional health authorities (a.k.a. the area health services) that would be responsible for the planning and provision of all health services within a designated region.

Based on ‘reforms’ introduced in United Kingdom, this plan would transform the health system for the worst. Because it would involve the elimination of fee-for-service general practice, GP services would end up being ‘rationed,’ just like public hospital care. People who wait months now on elective surgery waiting lists would end up waiting for days and possibly weeks before they could even see a GP.

We do need to find a cure for the coming crisis of Medicare. But a plan that would give the bureaucracies that operate public hospitals without enough beds even greater control of our precious health dollars should be dismissed out of hand.

The above is a press release from CIS

Lax police approach leaves some Melbourne streets off limits

THE controversy over attacks on Indian students has highlighted Australia's acceptance that areas of its cities are unsafe for anyone at certain times. Andrew McIntosh, the Opposition police spokesman in Victoria - who raised his concerns about the attacks ahead of the recent furore - said yesterday: "Under no circumstances should a certain level of crime be considered acceptable in any part of the state."

He said that he was "appalled to hear a senior police officer saying that people who live near a hotel have to accept an amount of bad behaviour". "This, to me, means just surrendering the streets to the bad guys. We may as well put up signs saying these are no-go areas, that we enter at our peril. We should not tolerate any level of violence."

He says the violence against Indian students and the broader community requires a major campaign on the lines of the campaigns run successfully against bad behaviour on the roads, including drink driving and road deaths. "And we need to put more police on the beat. It's just a bloody disgrace," he says. He says he attended last Sunday's rally in Melbourne by Indian students to listen to their concerns. "To dismiss them as soft targets because they travel alone on public transport late at night is simply not acceptable," he says. "They need to be protected, like all of us, by our Government. It's all part of the same problem."

One of Australia's leading experts on race hate attacks, Sydney based Jeremy Jones, a former executive president of the Australian Council of Jewry, says that most of the attacks are probably by "idiotic thugs" rather than by people driven by an ideology of racial hatred. But, he adds: "It doesn't make people in the Indian community feel any better even if it's only a tiny minority of Australians who have racist views about them, if they hold those views and act on them - especially if the community feels it doesn't have proper protection or recourse." He says that the best protection comes from political leaders speaking out unambiguously and frequently against racism. "It has to be repeated, because you have to get through some thick skulls."

Gail Mason of the University of Technology, Sydney, says that such crimes often involve mixed motives: robbery, for instance, combined with race-hate-motivated assault, fuelled by drunkenness and boredom, "and a desire to establish a sense of one's own masculinity in front of friends".

A leader of the Indian community in Victoria, who does not wish to be named, says the victims of the attacks are overwhelmingly studying at small, private institutions rather than at established universities. He says some appeared to lack proficiency in English,and lack adequate preparation and guidance for their time in Melbourne....


An affront to justice in anyone's language

Only one year in jail for drowning his recently married young wife. Lazy prosecutors accept a deal to save themselves the trouble of getting a murder verdict

QUEENSLAND'S attorney-general is considering appealing the sentence given to an American man over the scuba-diving death of his wife on the Great Barrier Reef in 2003. David Gabriel Watson, 32, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years' jail on Friday after pleading guilty in the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane to the manslaughter of Christina (Tina) while on their honeymoon in north Queensland. He had been charged with murder, to which he pleaded not guilty, but crown persecutors accepted the plea to the lesser charge. Watson will serve 12 months behind bars before he is released on a suspended sentence.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick has asked for the sentencing remarks, and will consider lodging an appeal. Shadow Attorney-General Lawrence Springborg has told the ABC the Government should examine the Watson case. "Obviously, the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) had decided they would enter into a plea agreement, and a lot of people will be shaming their heads, particularly the family of the victim," he said.

US authorities have expressed their outrage over the leniency of the sentence. Alabama's Attorney-General Troy King told Fairfax newspapers on Saturday he will lead a mission to Queensland to lobby for an appeal. If that isn't successful, he will push "America's legal boundaries to the limit" and attempt to charge Watson with murder, for the second time, when he is deported back to the US upon his release.

Americans in Watson's home state of Alabama have reacted with fury and disgust at the jail sentence. "It makes me sick, he should get 40 years for sure! Loser!" a reader vented on Alabama's Birmingham News website on Friday. Another wrote: "One year. That is pathetic. I hope that when he does get out and returns home everyone gives him hell".

Tina's friends and relatives also used the Birmingham News website to show their anger. "I am one of Tina's cousins and we are completely and totally outraged by this sentence ... what a complete slap in the face to Tina's family," the cousin wrote.


Former union leader now in government lashes out at unions

FEDERAL cabinet minister and former ACTU president Martin Ferguson has slapped down union leaders, declaring they should be more focused on protecting the jobs of their members than agitating for a second wave of workplace laws.

Reflecting the Government's determination to stare down the unions at the coming ALP national conference, Mr Ferguson has fuelled tensions by accusing building unionists of indefensible behaviour. "I would have thought that in the middle of the global financial crisis our priority is keeping people employed, not changes to the industrial regulatory system," the Resources Minister told The Weekend Australian. "This Labor Government learned early on that for working families, having a job is far more preferable than being unemployed. "It's about time the union leadership gave Kevin (Rudd) and Julia (Gillard) credit for what has been done in very difficult economic circumstances."

Mr Ferguson said he unequivocally supported the address by Julia Gillard to the ACTU congress in Brisbane this week, in which she highlighted allegations of violence and intimidation against Victorian building workers and rejected the ACTU push to scrap the coercive powers of the building industry watchdog. The Workplace Relations Minister told unionists they would be better off "pounding the pavements" in support of the Fair Work Act than lobbying Canberra for further industrial legislative change.

Mr Ferguson told The Weekend Australian yesterday: "As a son of a bricklayer, I appreciate the building industry is a tough industry, but there are expectations as to how trade unions conduct themselves. "It was the Hawke and Keating governments that started to clean the industry up, and it was unfinished business from when we were last in government in 1996. "Having been given the privilege to govern again, it's also our responsibility to make sure we do the right thing by building industry workers and their families. "While there are excesses on both sides, in some disputes, such as the West Gate Bridge dispute, there were acts that no decent Labor Party person or supporter can defend."

Mr Ferguson's public intervention is significant. As a former ACTU leader and left-wing secretary of the then Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union, he commands respect among union officials. A prominent union official during the 1980s and 1990s, he was involved in stoushes between Labor governments and the Builders Labourers Federation.

Senior government figures have expressed concern at what Labor sees as the continuing militant conduct of building unionists, particularly in Victoria and Western Australia. Unions will push for a motion at the ALP conference to scrap the industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. They will seek to ensure the motion contains a clause saying the policy must be implemented at the next election and could not be changed by the Government.

In backing Ms Gillard yesterday, Mr Ferguson made pointed reference to the time he had spent representing the interests of some of the nation's lowest-paid workers. "I understand and fully support Julia Gillard's speech to the ACTU congress this week," he said. "The union movement's priority must be always to look after the low-paid in the community. As Minister for Workplace Relations, Julia has completely focused on putting in place the industrial relations system that assists the weakest in the community, the people I used to like representing, such as cleaners and childcare workers.

"With respect to the building industry, there is a limit to how much assistance any Labor government can give. The tensions in some sections of the building industry, in some ways, reflect tensions that were there the last time Labor was in government, from 1983 to 1996."


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