Friday, January 29, 2010

How I became a racist

This poor woman can't get over her delusion that all cultures are equal

I’m sitting in my lounge room looking at the swag of contemporary political philosophy books I own, simmering with resentment at the noise the uneducated wogs downstairs are making.

My family moved to Balmain when I was a teenager and until recently I’ve mainly lived in the Inner West of Sydney. I tried the Eastern Suburbs for a while but decided it was too cashed up and pretentious for my left-wing sensibilities. So I stayed close to Glebe and Newtown, went on the right marches, studied the right subjects at uni, and voted for the right political party.

But a couple of years ago my boyfriend and I found ourselves priced out of the inner city rental market - a direct consequence, I told myself, of my lack of materialism and desire to pursue a modest creative life.

We moved to south-western Sydney - to a suburb I had never even visited - where our newly renovated two bedroom apartment with large balcony and lock-up garage sets us back a mere $330 a week.

I now live in an epicentre of multiculturalism where Anglos are almost non-existent, and so at 41 I find myself a minority for the first time in my life. And I don’t like it. The median strips resemble the streets of Bombay - continually littered with household rubbish. We’ve renamed the corner fruit and vege shop The Rotting Fruit Emporium where the over-ripe produce is certainly cheap but has the molecular structure of cask wine.

The butchers which specialises in halal meat, particularly goat, is as hygienic as the average outdoor dunny, and the Bongo Mart, the local equivalent of a convenience store, has never stocked anything by Kraft, Arnotts or Cadbury’s.

Of course, the trouble with being immersed in difference is not that I can’t get organic truffle oil pasta or a babycino but that I’m confronted with the fact that what I thought were my values - reflected in those books with their bleeding heart titles like On Toleration, The Ethos of Pluralisation, and Multicultural Citizenship - seem to be so easily eroded by minor council violations committed by anyone I consider ‘other’.

Indeed, my self-righteousness received a boost from said council when they recently launched a ‘Quit the Spit’ campaign, designed to deter ‘foreigners’ ignorant of ‘our ways’ from gobbing all over the street. I’ve even begun to yell the slogan at people who violate it.

I’m stumped as to how the culturally specific conventions by which I live my life have come to be immutable, universal laws of nature in my mind? What’s happened to me? I’ve become the type of person I was always most intolerant of: an intolerant person. It’s positively unAustralian


Australian public health spending on course to disaster

KEVIN Rudd has declared 2010 a year of "major health reform", warning that health spending alone will outstrip state tax revenues within two decades. In the latest in a series of speeches in the lead-up to Australia Day, the Prime Minister yesterday warned that Australia faced the choice of cutting pensions, health services and aged care; running massive deficits; or, his preferred option, boosting productivity as the population aged to help lift tax revenues.

Mr Rudd told a reception in Sydney that the states' health spending was already growing at 11 per cent a year compared with revenue growth of 3 to 4 per cent a year. "Rapidly rising health costs create a real risk (that), absent major policy change, state governments will be overwhelmed by their rising health-spending obligations," he warned. "If current spending and revenue trends continue, Treasury projects that the total health spending of all states will exceed 100 per cent of their tax revenues, excluding the GST, by around 2045-46, and possibly earlier in some states. That is why 2010 must be and will be a year of major health reform."

The big-ticket item remains a new carve-up of commonwealth and state responsibilities to fund and run the nation's public hospitals, with pressure on the federal government to act at next month's Council of Australian Governments meeting. The Rudd government promised during the last election campaign to take over hospitals if the states failed to lift their game by this year. The Prime Minister must now decide whether to embrace a single-funder model for hospitals, with the commonwealth to fund health facilities, but the states to run them.

Mr Rudd said growing health-spending pressures would account for two-thirds of the total projected increase in government spending over the next 40 years. "Forty years ago, Australian government spending on health equated to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product," Mr Rudd said. "In 2010, Australian government health spending equates to 4 per cent of GDP. And the Intergenerational Report projects that it will rise to 7.1 per cent in 2050. "In dollar terms, that's an increase of over $200 billion by 2050 and equates to an increase in average Australian government health spending per person in real terms from $2290 today to $7210 in 2050."

Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce said a single funder would help stop some of the blame game between the states and the commonwealth. "When things go wrong, the states blame the commonwealth," Dr Pesce said. "If there's a single funder, at least you know who is responsible for the money. The commonwealth would be the insurer or purchaser of healthcare and the states would run hospitals."

Mr Rudd surprised and angered health groups by failing to deliver a new agenda on health reform at last month's COAG meeting in Brisbane, but the issue is expected to take centrestage when premiers hold their next meeting, next month. Beyond the central issue of who funds and runs public hospitals, other items to be discussed include primary care and who, other than doctors, should have access to Medicare payments -- such as nurses. There is also a push by aged- care providers again to introduce some form of high-care nursing home bonds and reforms to help fund new infrastructure needs as the population ages.

Health groups have recently complained their patience is wearing thin as the government fails to act on promised reform. But senior Rudd government sources argue the Prime Minister was deliberately taking his time to get the policy right.

In the short term, the rising costs will make for another tough budget for Health Minister Nicola Roxon, who must deliver new spending cuts after targeting private health insurance rebates, IVF and cataract surgery in the last budget.


Higher taxes will rescue Australia's government healthcare system?

Left-leaning economist Ross Gittins replies to the above article. He says that taxes will have to rise but it won't hurt because they will be sliced from a bigger pie. He overlooks the British experience that pouring money into socialized medicine does little to improve standards of care. The money mostly goes on more bureaucrats. Despite a doubling of expenditure in recent years, British hospitals are CUTTING BACK services -- and have been doing so for some time. All economist Gittins sees is money. That the whole system needs to be rethought from scratch seems beyond him

Welcome to another year of media manipulation by our political leaders. Don't you love it? The Rudd Government is sitting on two major economic reports - from the Henry review on tax reform and Treasury's third intergenerational report - and some day soon it will let us see them. Meanwhile, it's leaking to journalists or dropping into speeches bits and pieces from them.

In the week leading up to Australia Day, Kevin Rudd gave a series of speeches in each capital city purporting to outline the findings of the intergenerational report on the implications of our ageing population. His version was both debatable and - I think we'll find - quite misleading.

In "sounding the alarm bells" on the effects of ageing, his first point was that it will lead to much slower growth in our material standard of living. Whereas average real income per person grew by 1.9 per cent a year over the past 40 years, Treasury's projections show it growing by only 1.5 per cent a year over the next 40.

This is likely because of slower growth in the size of the workforce. It may not seem much of a slowdown but compounded over 40 years it means real income per person would end up being $16,000 a year lower than otherwise by 2050. But, by my calculation, there's another, unauthorised way to view that comparison: rather than rising by about 110 per cent over the next 40 years, our real incomes are projected to grow by a paltry 80 per cent.

Rudd apparently views this gap with great concern and automatically assumes all of us do, too. He vows to take the steps necessary to prevent this slowdown in the rate of growth in the economy's production of goods and services.

How? Mainly by increasing the rate of improvement in the productivity of our labour - the average amount of goods and services produced by an hour of work. On average, our productivity improves by about 1.6 per cent each year, partly because of increased investment in equipment and other physical capital but mainly because of improvements in labour-saving technology.

If we could increase this rate of improvement to average 2 per cent a year, Rudd tells us, we wouldn't miss out on each being that last $16,000 a year better off by 2050. Just think of all the extra stuff you could buy with an extra $16,000 per family member.

Rudd, like all politicians (and business people and economists) assumes our values are primarily materialist. He's flaunting it, trying to prove Labor is just as good at delivering greater material affluence as the Liberals are.

As always, the implicit assumption is that we can have greater affluence without paying any price in reduced environmental or social amenity. Somehow, I doubt it.

It was from this intergenerational report that we were advised last year of Treasury's latest projection that the population is expected to grow more than 60 per cent in the next 40 years, from 22 million to 36 million.

From what we can tell, the report makes no claim this huge growth in population - with all the pressures it will bring on the environment, urban transport and housing - will make a significant difference to the rate at which our real incomes are likely to grow.

Rudd's second point is that the ageing of the population threatens the sustainability of government budgets. It "will result in higher costs for health, aged care and the age pension", he says. "It will also result in a smaller proportion of the population being in work, thus slowing the rate of growth of government revenues."

The key spending pressure will be on healthcare, he says. Forty years ago, federal government spending on health was equal to about 1 per cent of gross domestic product.

Today it's 4 per cent and by 2050 it's projected to be 7 per cent. (And that doesn't count the huge growth in health spending by the states, nor the growth in yours and my private health insurance and out-of-pocket payments.)

Rudd says the looming pressure on government budgets leaves us with three options: first, "cut health spending, reduce aged care and reduce payments for people entering retirement". No dice. Second, permit "long-term unsustainable budget deficits". No dice.

But third: boost government tax revenue by increasing participation in the workforce and "most critically, by boosting the productivity of the workforce". Ah, the easy option. Thank you. Sorry, but I'm not buying. Rudd's analysis is alarmist and highly misleading. There's a fourth option for covering the expected higher spending on healthcare that Rudd's not game to mention but is the most likely way we'll end up paying for it: higher taxation.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Everything we already know about the implications of ageing for government budgets tells us the higher costs associated with the greater proportion of old people are actually quite manageable. The main reason for the expected growth in health spending is the high cost of the many advances in medical technology we'll be taking advantage of.

In other words, Rudd, as Peter Costello did, is trying to "pathologise" the expected growth in health spending: make something good (our greater ability to prolong our lives and make them healthier) sound like it's bad (the elderly will be putting an intolerable burden on taxpayers).

According to the Government's projections, our real incomes are likely to grow about 80 per cent over the period. There's no good reason we shouldn't choose - as we assuredly will - to spend a higher proportion of that on improving our health and longevity. And since, for good reason, we pay for our healthcare mainly via the public purse, this will involve higher taxes. Simple as that. Pity Rudd lacks the courage to tell us so.


Amazing: Migrants with HIV, cancer allowed to settle in Australia

Chronically ill foreign workers and their families, including those with HIV-AIDS, will be allowed to settle in Australia for the first time as the Immigration Department loosens its stringent health rules to alleviate the skills shortage. The department is widening a loophole that lets it waive the health requirement for some sick dependants of Australian citizens.

Taxpayers will spend nearly $60 million on healthcare for 288 migrants granted special clearance last financial year to live in Australia, despite failing health exams. These included 59 cases of HIV infection, 10 of cancer and 26 of intellectual impairment. Most of the waivers were granted to the foreign partners of Australian citizens.

Now the federal government wants to widen the health loophole in a bid to lure skilled immigrants who otherwise would be turned away on the grounds of illness, mental health or chronically ill family members.

But NSW -- the strongest magnet for new migrants -- has so far refused to sign the change, which requires state and territory agreement because of the potential drain on their hospital systems. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into Australia's treatment of disabled migrants, the Immigration Department warns that removing health restrictions could strain health services already in short supply, such as organ transplants or dialysis. "Additional migration, particularly if current health restrictions were to be removed, could lead to increased pressure on healthcare systems," it says. "Any significant change to the current health requirement would need to be considered in the context of potential impacts on health and welfare expenditure . . . particularly in terms of prejudice to the access of . . . citizens and permanent residents to healthcare and community services."

Departmental data reveals that 42 health waivers were granted to foreign workers on temporary skilled visas during 2008-09. The department plans to extend the waivers to workers seeking permanent residency, and those who have set up businesses in Australia.

Health bans were lifted last financial year for 138 temporary immigrants seeking to remain in Australia -- at a total cost to taxpayers of $19.5m in health and community services. Another 150 immigrants who applied offshore were granted waivers, at an estimated cost of $38.2m. HIV was the most common health condition, involving 59 cases at a cost of $14m, with 26 cases of intellectual impairment at a cost of $1.2m, and 10 cases of cancer, at a cost of $751,500. The department knocked back applications from another 1586 would-be migrants who failed health tests -- at an estimated saving to taxpayers of $70m.

Federal parliament's migration committee began inquiring into Australia's treatment of disabled migrants after Immigration Minister Chris Evans intervened in 2008 to grant permanent residency to a German doctor whose son had Down syndrome.


1 comment:

rloader said...

I am sure there are plenty of healthy skilled migrants the Government could give visas to come to Australia. Why bring unhealthy people here unless they are genuine refugees? Our health services are already at crisis point. If the Govt brings these people here, once more Australians will be pushed aside in favor of people who are not Australian citizens.(a caring Govt. indeed)