Saturday, October 31, 2009

Australia's Prosperity Index result down because of poor public healthcare

By Greg Lindsay and Roger Bate. Greg Lindsay is the Executive Director of The Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney. Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index is now available. A majority of Australians rely on "free" government hospitals, where low standards and long waits are common

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index rates Australia an impressive sixth out of 104 countries surveyed – the top five are all small Northern European countries with populations of less than 10 million.

However, inefficiencies in public hospitals are hurting Australia’s prosperity. While Australia is very strong on the economic fundamentals required for long-term growth, the nation’s ailing health care system is keeping Australia from reaching its full potential, in terms of both economic progress and quality of life. Legatum ranks Australia a lowly 21st in health care, behind countries like Singapore, Spain, and the Czech Republic; 28th in infant mortality; 47th for number of doctors per capita; and behind Slovakia and Hungary on available beds.

The Australian Medical Association recently found that waiting times far exceed acceptable levels. The median wait for hip surgery in Australian public hospitals is nearly three months. For cataract surgery, it’s more than two months. Major public hospitals throughout Australia are bursting at the seams with bed occupancy rates of well over 100% a daily occurrence.

Overcrowding and inefficiency have compromised patient safety. According to the Queensland University of Technology, $1 billion annually is lost in bed days because of hospital-acquired infections. Medical errors cost an estimated $1 billion–$2 billion annually, with half of these errors classified as ‘potentially preventable.’

These health care problems are draining billions from the Australian economy, both directly by taking money away from players in the health sector and indirectly by compromising worker health and undermining productivity.

Australians are among the most prosperous populations on the planet. But the country’s health sector is in need of significant improvement. Cutting away waste and improving quality in health care would go a long way toward making Australia even stronger.

The above is part of a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated October 30. Enquiries to cis@cis.org.au. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310




Rudd on the horns of a dilemma over illegal immigrants

Talking about a big Australia and waging a desperate struggle to salvage a tough border protection strategy may appear a contradiction, yet as Rudd knows and John Howard proved, border protection and Australia's high immigration program have always gone together. This compact, pivotal to Australia's progress, is at risk. An unpredictable mix of events on the water, in Indonesia, and worry about Rudd's hard line from within his own constituency has created a diabolical dilemma for Rudd and Stephen Smith. Faced with a limited array of unpalatable options the government's tough border protection stance is at risk. The political centre, it seems, may not hold with Rudd under aggressive assault from opposite positions on the Right and Left.

There are two boats in Indonesia with Sri Lankan asylum-seekers refusing to disembark, the first intercepted by the Indonesians within their own waters with 250 people aboard and the Oceanic Viking, an Australian boat that rescued 78 asylum-seekers at Indonesia's request in Indonesia's rescue zone.

Rudd and his Foreign Minister are standing firm. The plight of the Oceanic Viking has become the most difficult test of Rudd's resolution. The claim that he cannot take a hard decision offensive to his own side will now be determined. Does Rudd have the nerve and patience to prevail or will he crack before the political blackmail of the asylum-seekers and reluctance of local Indonesian authorities?

This week the Australian media seemed unable or unwilling to describe what was happening before its eyes: the Oceanic Viking asylum-seekers, by refusing to disembark in Indonesia, exploited their moral plight as a device to intimidate the Rudd government into a retreat and re-direction of the boat to Christmas Island where they could be processed.

As Smith signalled, this is a case of asylum-seekers trying to decide what country will process their claims and what country will become their new home if those claims are upheld. Asylum-seekers have no such rights under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The situation is exactly the reverse of the interpretation given wide currency this week. Far from Australia ignoring its obligations under the convention, the asylum-seekers are insisting on rights they do not possess under the convention. It is obvious what should happen: if the Sri Lankans are serious about being refugees they should leave the boat immediately and claim refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Their real purpose, however, is different. It is to self-select Australia and to resist any effort to have the UNHCR process their claims outside Australia. "It's not their choice," Smith told the AM ABC radio program. "It's not a matter for the Sri Lankans on board to choose where they make their application for refugee status. We absolutely defend their right to make that application."

The spectre of an ignominious retreat now overhangs Rudd and Smith that would see them forced to bring the asylum-seekers to this country. Such a move would destroy Rudd's credibility on border protection and represent an Australian submission to the campaign by boatpeople to self-select Australia as their home.

The government has no legal obligation to bring these people to Australia. As Rudd said, Australia took two decisions in relation to the Oceanic Viking asylum-seekers: it engaged in rescue when a vessel was in distress and, having collected the people and in consultation with Indonesian authorities, it decided to take the people for processing in Indonesia.

There is no credible case that Australia should have done otherwise. Rudd and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed that the people be processed in Indonesia. The problem is that Yudhoyono is struggling to enforce the agreement in the teeth of provincial hostility and resentment against Australia seems to be rising.

On Wednesday Smith was unequivocal about the result. "The President has already made that decision," he insisted. "Now that (going to Indonesia) is what will occur." He was confident the Rudd-Yudhoyono agreement would be honoured. On Thursday, Smith told radio station 2UE that Australia wasn't setting any timetable. "These things always take time," he said. Asked if the government would back down and bring them to Australia, Smith said: "We don't have that in contemplation."

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told ABC1's Lateline on Wednesday that Indonesia would not use force to remove the asylum-seekers and said: "We have an abundance of patience". Yet he intensified the pressure, saying if the people won't budge then the Rudd government must take that into account. The next day Rudd followed by saying that Australia also had an abundance of patience. It is a polite way of describing a stalemate in which Rudd and Smith hope they can prevail but have limited leverage and only marginal control over a situation vital to their policy.

It is a game of political poker for high stakes. The more the Sri Lankans believe that Rudd may retreat, the more they will stay the course. In the meantime, Rudd will be under growing criticism at home for his inhumanity and hypocrisy.

The deadlock highlights the agonising nature of asylum-seeker policy. There is little doubt the Sri Lankans are genuine refugees yet the Indonesian and Australian authorities have met their obligations and are fully entitled to insist the boatpeople disembark.

Rudd and Smith know they must ensure the one-off Oceanic Viking event does not disrupt the substantial and permanent regional co-operation they seek with Indonesia that will be canvassed at the next Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting. In this sense the resilience of the Rudd-Yudhoyono concord is being tested. It must survive that test for Rudd to have any prospect of salvaging his asylum-seeker policy.

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Law to save Australian meat pies drafted by politicians

Meat pies are Australia's national religion. Even people who don't follow the neddies still like a meat pie. And most people have a "church" (pieshop) that they mostly go to for their pies. So we don't need politicians to tell us what is a good pie



A LAW to save the Aussie meat pie has been written by three politicians who argue that consumers are being dudded by misleading food standards. Current standards allow manufacturers to claim a meat pie is Australian-made, even if the meat is sourced from overseas - which will eventually include countries with mad cow disease after the easing of meat restrictions. As long as some of the packaging, pastry and gravy is made locally, products can carry the green and gold "Australian Made" logo.

Outraged federal Senators independent Nick Xenophon, Nationals' Barnaby Joyce, and Greens' Bob Brown said the Rudd Government needed to get fair dinkum with consumers. "This is pathetic. You can have a meat pie that says 'Australian Made' but contains 100 per cent foreign meat," Senator Xenophon said. Senator Joyce said labels should carry a pie graph to show what percentage of the product was actually from Australia.

The Trades Practices Act says products can claim to be made in Australia if they have been "substantially transformed" and have 50 per cent or more of the cost of producing or manufacturing in Australia. The Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling Laws) Bill 2009, was yesterday scrutinised in a Senate inquiry. The senators want greater detail about the content of food products, including imported ingredients. It would mean the word "Australian" would only apply in relation to food that is 100 per cent produced in Australia from Australian products.

But the Australian Made, Australian Grown Campaign, Dick Smith Foods and the Australian National Retailers Association have argued there could be unintended consequences. "Cheese ... made in Australia today is made with imported rennet (a substance that curdles milk). Under this proposal cheese made in Australia from 100 per cent Australian milk could not be labelled Australian cheddar," said the Australian Made, Australian Grown Campaign in a submission to the inquiry.

SOURCE




Queensland becoming as authoritarian as Britain

Both have for some years been run by Leftist governments

With the government recently waging war on everyone from smokers to skateboarders, bikies to binge drinkers, civil libertarians warn Queensland is on the verge of becoming a nanny state.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the passing of state laws yesterday banning smoking in cars with children recalled the classic Mark Twain cry, "No one's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." "You can see the justification for [non-smoking laws], but where does it stop?" Mr Cope said.

Further legislation, tabled by Attorney-General Cameron Dick yesterday, designed to dismantle outlaw gangs by tearing down clubhouses and banning members from associating with each other drew more ire from the long-term campaigner for civil rights.

"These days politicians have this great urge to be seen to be fixing everybody's social ills ... inevitably the minute you do that you reduce people's liberty," he said. "Every time a problem arises a politician passes a law to fix it - that is why we are creeping towards a nanny state. [The government] is slowly chipping away at people's freedoms; there is no doubt about that."

He said the State Government was ignoring the follies of outright bans. "The problem with any law is that it may cover problems B, C and D but it does more harm to people's liberty than what's intended."

Civil libertarians have widely opposed greater paternalism of "health and safety", but a spokesman for Premier Anna Bligh today maintained the government had introduced new legislation to "protect people".

In August this year the State Government banned skateboarders and rollerbladers riding after dark. The government cited safety reasons for the crackdown on riders of "wheeled recreation devices", claiming they became almost invisible to motorists after sundown.

Less than one month later Premier Anna Bligh announced the use of regular glass would be banned in bars deemed high risk by the end of the year. The government cited safety and health reasons, saying the glass ban would strip people of the "weapon of choice" in pubs and clubs. Glass is expected to be banned in at least 74 late-night watering holes throughout Queensland as the Government fine-tunes its list of high risk venues. Forty-one venues have until the new year to justify why they should not be made to serve drinks in plastic cups.

The Government's legislative reach may be further extended as a parliamentary inquiry seeks to curb the increasing incidents of alcohol-related violence in entertainment precincts in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The Queensland Police Union this week proposed shutting down Brisbane's entertainment precincts at 2am and suburban hotels at 12pm. Fortitude Valley venues were quick to slam the ambitious proposal arguing the call signalled a return to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. "We're dangerously heading down the path of becoming a nanny state," chairman of the Valley Liquor Accord Danny Blair said.

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