Monday, February 15, 2010

Conservative leader plans local management boards for hospitals

This is basically a reversion to the old system -- a system that worked much better than the present constipated bureaucracy. Under the old system doctors and prominent members of the local community ran the hospitals -- with only a fraction of the bureaucracy that is sucking up the health dollars nowadays

LOCAL boards would run major public hospitals under Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's prescription to fix the nation's ailing health system. Mr Abbott yesterday foreshadowed a Northern Territory-style "emergency intervention" for public hospitals under the plan to install local management boards in Queensland and NSW within six months if the Coalition won the next election. The boards would be government-appointed, have control over hospital budgets and discretion to raise money from private patients.

The Rudd Government savaged the plan as "half-baked", while Queensland Health Minister Paul Lucas predicted a disaster.

Flanked by predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Abbott used the policy to attack Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for failing to meet his promise to improve or take over public hospitals. "All we've had from Kevin Rudd in two years is words ... and I'm telling Kevin Rudd that the only change that will really make a long-term difference is to empower local people ... by establishing local community boards," he said. Mr Abbott said the "systemic malaise" in NSW and Queensland public hospitals meant the Commonwealth should be prepared to intervene.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Mr Abbott's ideas were not a comprehensive plan for change. "He was a quick fix, Band-Aid Minister and he wants to be a quick-fix, band-aid Prime Minister," she said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the system needed "urgent surgery" and he made no apology for taking longer than promised to find a solution. Mr Lucas said local communities were not the right people to run hospitals. "Having a local hospital board is a recipe for ... debt being run up by people who do not have the expertise to runthem."


Conservatives surge to poll lead

Kevvy hasn't lost it yet but the trend is clearly against him

SUPPORT for Kevin Rudd in his home state has crashed as Tony Abbott's new-look Coalition powers ahead of Labor for the first time since the 2007 federal election. The latest Galaxy poll, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, reveals the energetic new Opposition Leader is making inroads in the crucial battleground of Queensland. The pivotal state delivered Mr Rudd victory two years ago but support for federal Labor has slipped three percentage points to 39 per cent, while the Coalition has stormed ahead six since November to 46 per cent.

It means the Prime Minister now faces a real contest in his own back yard, as more Queenslanders question whether he can deliver on his promises and whether he is too arrogant. If preferences were allocated as per the last election, the Coalition would lead on 51 per cent to the ALP's 49 per cent. "This represents a swing to the Coalition of five points since the last Galaxy poll in November and an improvement of around 1.4 per cent on their vote at the last federal election," Galaxy chief executive David Briggs said.

It is the first opinion poll since the 2007 election to put the Coalition in the lead and comes as both parties sharpen their attacks for an election expected later this year.

"Kevin Rudd is being attacked on two fronts in Queensland," Mr Briggs said. "On the one hand he must combat the rising unpopularity of the Bligh Government and on the other he faces the resurgence of the federal Liberal Party under its new leader, Tony Abbott."

Sixty-eight per cent of voters believe Ms Bligh and state Labor will cost Mr Rudd support at the federal election. About half of those polled think Mr Rudd would make the better prime minister and two-thirds of Queenslanders believe he understands the state. Less than half believe he is in touch with everyday issues and easy to understand.

But worrying for Mr Rudd is that 49 per cent of Queenslanders now believe he is "more talk than action" and 46 per cent think he is arrogant. It means the Coalition's pre-election argument that Mr Rudd is failing to deliver on his promises such as hospital reform and homelessness are beginning to gain traction.

The Galaxy poll of 800 voters across the state was conducted last Wednesday and Thursday as Mr Abbott called on Environment Minister Peter Garrett to resign over the bungled home insulation program.

The Coalition faced its own troubles, with Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce coming under attack for a series of gaffes, but Mr Abbott ended the week ahead. Since taking over the Liberal leadership in December he has re-energised the Coalition.

The Galaxy poll also reveals a majority of Queenslanders, 54 per cent, are satisfied with Mr Rudd's performance in his job. But the same proportion of voters give Mr Abbott a tick in his new role. "While the two leaders are neck and neck in terms of satisfaction, more voters are dissatisfied with the performance of Kevin Rudd, 41 per cent, than Tony Abbott, 34 per cent," Mr Briggs said.

Mr Abbott is 15 points behind his Labor counterpart as preferred prime minister but he has a stronger net approval rating: 20 per cent to Mr Rudd's 13 per cent.


No mathematics teacher in a NSW government High School? Due to lack of money says schools boss

So a teacher is replaced by a website. It's not money that is needed. It's a congenial working environment. Teaching was once seen as a noble profession. With today's chaotic schools, capable people avoid a teaching career. Some previous imbecilic comments from the pig's Trotter here (3rd article down)

NEW South Wales schools are doing all they can to attract maths teachers but are competing with higher-paying employers for a small pool of talent, a senior education official says.

The comments come after revelations that HSC students at Davidson High School in Sydney's north were being forced to teach themselves maths online because of a teacher shortage. The students have been without a qualified 2-unit maths teacher for the first month of year 12, following the retirement of a teacher last year.

NSW Department of Education and Training director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter says Davidson High School is searching for a permanent teacher and an interim teacher will be sent to the school tomorrow.

Mr Coutts-Trotter says he understands the frustration of parents and students, but the school has done all it can to support the students and to try to find a suitable permanent teacher. "They've begun the HSC year with a whole lot of undesirable changes, but the school has done everything it possibly can to support the people in that class," Mr Coutts-Trotter told Fairfax Radio Network.

"Nationally in the last 15 years people are taking fewer challenging maths and science subjects through their schooling, and as a result there is a shrinking pool of people of real ability in maths and science to take up teaching positions. "We're also competing for their skills against the finance sector particularly."

Mr Coutts-Trotter said about $7 million a year was being spent on scholarships, retraining and a range of inducements to encourage more people to train as teachers.


An opportunistic and wasteful spending spree

Some comments below from a disillusioned Labor Party supporter

IT was one of those airy, sun-drenched afternoons in January, when slanted fingers of sunlight flash through the trees, enamelling the eucalypt leaves a translucent pale green. I was idling on the front deck with an old book when a polite young man appeared at the top of the steps, bearing a plain black clipboard like a votary.

With a brisk yet obliging air he explained that his firm was urgently employed in delivering the federal government's ceiling insulation scheme, and that they happened to be passing through my town that very day. He already had an extensive list of appointments, and they were racing the clock before they moved on to the next town. But because of the public importance of the program he would fit us into his hectic schedule, if only I'd sign the necessary forms right away.

Summoning up the rules of etiquette dunned into us in childhood for such occasions, I replied that while we were grateful for the opportunity, things were busy right now, and we'd have to pass up the chance. Further, since our house was only 20 years old and seemed well-insulated enough to my inexpert eye, there was a danger he'd be wasting his time.

Some hint of scepticism must have passed over my face, because the young man now assumed an air of injured pride. With squared shoulders and a defiant chin, he insisted on the absolute public importance of their mission, as well as the urgent necessity for replacing out-of-date insulation of all types, regardless of how recently it may have been installed.

Indeed - and at this point his face brightened up again - in a manner of speaking you could say his firm was employed by the government. Once more he pushed the clipboard into my hand and with all the majesty of the public weal behind his voice urged me to sign without delay.

Until last Friday, when the deadline for installers to lodge their trade credentials at last expired, hundreds of likely lads such as Omar were treading our suburban streets, smiling sweetly and presenting themselves as the environmental representatives of the Australian government; all the while busily removing perfectly adequate insulation from homes and replacing it with insulation that is probably no better in quality and may be dangerous.

Probably in six months the same plausible young men will be in another line of work altogether. Perhaps they will be installing solar panels. Perhaps they'll be seeking work with the registered electricians whose job it is to inspect the thousands of botched ceiling installation jobs carried out by people like themselves; or with the builders who may be called upon to check the structural integrity of all those speedily erected school halls.

One way or another, they will be following the burgeoning money trail for nation-building measures of all kinds, a money trail that, after the accession of that unlikely central planner, Tony Abbott, to the Liberal leadership, seems set to continue as far as the eye can see, regardless of which party is in power.

It's hard to believe that a mere 20 years ago Ros Kelly caused a public scandal by misallocating $30 million of sports grants with the aid of a whiteboard marker. Nowadays any self-respecting nation-building scheme could work throughthat amount on a quiet Friday afternoon.

Indeed, in retrospect the Hawke-Keating government appears the very pattern of fiscal rectitude. Public subsidies were removed from assembly lines producing cars no sensible person wanted to buy and pushed in the direction of hospital beds. Welfare was targeted towards families in actual trouble, rather than to those with the loudest sense of grievance. Prudent policy making was assumed to involve a certain degree of short-term electoral risk, since good policy often takes a while to be recognised as such.

John Howard was, by contrast, an exquisite practitioner of political serendipity. Every policy action, from the highest to the basest, depended on the right conjunction of political circumstance, so that what you had already wished to do for some other reason suddenly became good policy by virtue of pleasing the right people. And so families were subsidised for the sheer merit of being a family, while middle-class health insurance subscribers were subsidised for the pure virtue of being able to afford health insurance.

In the world of contemporary policymaking - where there are hundreds of opportunities every week to distribute morsels of self-gratifying publicity, but no enthusiasm for mounting unpopular arguments or engaging in patient persuasion - serendipity has become the greatest of all political virtues. What more delightful sensation could there be than to discover some bold policy innovation you've always dreamed of bringing to fruition (but never quite dared to speak out loud) has suddenly become not only possible but necessary through happenstance?

What if an economic downturn could provide the means for distributing cash to a list of brilliant but unproven policy causes: things we've always wanted to do but never quite been bold enough to argue for in public?

And what if the very urgency of the situation makes it necessary to spend that money without delay and without red tape, shorn of the usual tedious array of pilot programs, feasibility studies, appointments on merit and other assorted bureaucratic niceties that ordinarily mar the grand visions of policy potentates?

This is the exact manner by which a set of programs that seemed, serendipitously, only to possess virtues and advantages, has turned into an object lesson in how not to make public policy and how not to dispense public funds, at least if you want them to be spent responsibly and without too many perverse consequences.

The trouble with political serendipity, in short, is this: when all the planets seem mysteriously to be in alignment, in all likelihood things are simply too good to be true. Economic rigour and electoral scrutiny are unpalatable political disciplines. And yet each of them in their different and sometimes contradictory ways serves to restrain governments from doing bad things.

The Labor Party of old, the party of the trimmers and worriers and doubters, learned these lessons from the bitter experience of decades. This government seems to have forgotten them within a couple of years.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Trouble with Doctors running hospitals is they are great at deciding what Doctors want but they know less than nothing about Nursing care. Even after all these years. I think its the misplaced arrogance that gets bred into them at the Unis.