Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pyrrhic victory on healthcare?

Nothing will improve but now Rudd will get the blame for that.

Most of the bit of extra funding will go on more bureaucracy -- as most health funding already does. And anything that does get down to the coalface will get absorbed by population growth -- for most of which Rudd is again responsible (via his lax immigration policies)

Kevin Rudd claims his "historic'' health and hospital deal is a success but admits he can''t turn things around overnight.

Following two days of exhaustive negotiations and $5.4 billion in sweeteners, Mr Rudd yesterday secured the support of NSW and Victoria and said the Federal Government would cut a separate deal with WA if necessary.

But the Prime Minister reiterated his warning that the health deal he struck with Labor premiers and chief ministers won't produce instant results. "I can't turn things around overnight," he said. "I cannot wave a magic wand and say here are 6000 extra doctors to staff the system tomorrow."

Under the new reforms, which will take effect on July 1, the Commonwealth will take control of 60 per cent of public hospital funding in return for $5.4 billion in sweeteners and an agreement by states and territories to hand back an unspecified amount of GST.

However, doubts remain over the success of the reforms with premiers questioning whether their agreement with the commonwealth is in fact a done deal. WA Premier Colin Barnett said the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) signed by the remaining seven states and territories doesn't work without all eight on-board.

Victorian counterpart John Brumby also conceded there was uncertainty about the legalities of the IGA. "The legal advice is probably unclear on that point that Colin makes,'' Mr Brumby told ABC Radio today. "I think there will need to be legislative change to give effect to this and probably safeguard the interests of the states and of the Commonwealth.''

Despite WA opposing the reforms, Mr Barnett and Mr Rudd believe an agreement can still be reached on their GST sticking point and will continue discussions in the lead-up to the reform kick-off. Mr Rudd continued to insist his deal was valid with or without WA.

Meanwhile Mr Rudd will blitz the airwaves today after securing the historic health agreement while other state leaders signalled their support for the deal.

And the NSW government will hold a special cabinet meeting today to discuss the benefits and outcomes of the deal. Premier Kristina Keneally said families would be better off, with an additional $1.7 billion over four years for the state's health system.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh hailed the reforms were "a once in a generation opportunity". Ms Bligh said Queenslands could expect faster elective surgery and better emergency departments and added that $755 million in new funds would deliver significant gains for the state.


More on Pyrrhus Rudd

The madman must think that more bureaucracy actually helps

One of the magnums of Centenary of Federation Shiraz sitting down in the Lodge cellar would be a suitable drop for the Prime Minister to uncork to mark the signing of his health agreement.

He ought to enjoy the celebrations because when he wakes up he’ll remember the deal he has struck, which makes him responsible for the delivery of healthcare services in Australia.

So when the disgruntled son or daughter of an elderly patient decides to call talkback radio in their city because mum has been on a trolley for six hours in the Emergency department, they’ll be wondering what Kevin Rudd is going to do about it.

Only a few months ago, in the aftermath of the Copenhagen and the failure of the emissions trading scheme in the Senate, there were rumblings about what Rudd could really point to as major achievements in his first term in office. It triggered what now, in hindsight, looked like a token sackcloth-and-ashes routine before he embarked on a series of announcements on healthcare which combine to form a significant reform he can show to voters going to the polls, probably by the end of this year.

Rudd started his statement on the deal struck with the state premiers (technicalities with WA aside and you can read more of the details here) by saying it was a good day for families and a good day for patients.

And it is a good deal, for anyone who comes into contact with the health system. Because when it’s operational we will be very clear on who runs Australia’s health system. The federal government. If you want to vote on healthcare, voters now know where to direct their anger. In short it’s good news for people but could make life difficult for the PM.

There is - or at least there was in the initial policy document outlining the National Health and Hospitals network - some wriggle room for the PM when it comes to poor service delivery. If a hospital is not measuring up to performance standards on a range of measures - the four-hour waiting time in emergency departments, for example, or the minimum targets for elective surgery delivered within deadlines - the feds will be alerted… and tell the state government to go in and sort it out.

Rudd had a gun to each of the premiers’ heads: without significant reform of the how Australia pays for healthcare services the states would be going broke in a matter of a few decades.

But Rudd re-stated at the press conference that as the dominant funder of Australia’s public hospitals, he would be taking responsibility for patients’ experiences of sub-standard care in the health system. He wheeled out his oft-repeated line on hospital services under his plan. “The buck stops with me,” he said. “On the delivery of the healthcare system, that will lie in the hands very much of the local hospital networks.”

Wriggle room for managing the day-to-day news cycle, perhaps, but none at the ballot box.


Google versus the Australian government

I'm on Google's side in this one -- JR

In just six months, Google received 155 requests from the Australian government for users' personal data and 17 government requests to remove content from its services.

Of those requests, which occurred in the six months to December 31 2009, it complied with just 52.9 per cent. Fourteen of the content removal requests relate to YouTube, while there were one each for Blogger, web search and maps (except Street View).

The search giant revealed the numbers, which do not include child porn removal requests, in a new online tool breaking down how often countries around the world ask the company to hand over user data or censor information.

The move comes after recent censorship battles between Google and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, who recently attacked the company over its strident opposition to the government's plans to censor the internet.

Google also recently baulked at Senator Conroy's request for it to apply the government's filtering policy to YouTube.

"There's been a very rigorous debate [about censorship] in Australia ... we really wanted to start a conversation with some data," Google deputy general counsel Nicole Wong said in a phone interview with this website. Wong said some of the requests sought removal of multiple pieces of content. The company planned to release new figures every six months but acknowledged the data was less than perfect as the specific details of each content removal request are not provided.

"The issue around deciding to censor information requires some level of transparency, particularly in a democracy, for the people who are governed to be able to push back," Wong said.

Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, supports the move, saying it "gives a bit of insight into what can otherwise be a mysterious process".

The government has said its internet filtering policy would include transparency and accountability measures but Senator Conroy said he would stop short of releasing the blacklist of banned websites.

Brazil topped Google's list at the nascent Government Requests website, which indicated that officials there asked Google to filter content 291 times between the beginning of July and the end of December in 2009.

Germany was second with 188 requests to remove data while India and the United States ranked third and fourth respectively with 142 and 123.

China was deliberately excluded from the list for legal reasons. Wong said regimes such as China and Iran "point to examples [of censorship] in Western countries" such as Australia when justifying their own, much more extreme, censorship.

"Government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content," Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post about the new tool. "So it's no surprise that Google, like other technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies to remove content from our services."

Brazil also made the most requests for user information, with Google logging 3,663 requests. The United States was a close second place with 3,580 requests for user data while Britain was third with 1,166. "The vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations," Drummond said.

"However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship."

Google said it planned to update the website in six-month increments. "We're new at this, and we're still learning the best way to collect and present this information," Google explained at the Requests website. "We'll continue to improve this tool and fine-tune the types of data we display."

The number of governments censoring the internet has grown from about four in 2002 to more than 40, according to Open Net Initiative figures cited by Google. "Increased government censorship of the web is undoubtedly driven by the fact that record numbers of people now have access to the internet, and that they are creating more content than ever before," Google vice president of public affairs Rachel Whetstone said in a separate blog post. "This creates big challenges for governments used to controlling traditional print and broadcast media."

The launch of the Government Requests tool came on the same day that officials from 10 nations sent a letter to Google's chief executive demanding that the California firm better defend people's privacy. Canada's privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said a collaboration of countries representing a total of 375 million people were "speaking with a common voice" to remind internet firms to obey each nation's privacy laws.

The letter was also signed by data protection officials from Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. "We are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world's citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications," the letter stated.

The letter urges Google to set a worthy privacy example for other online firms.


People smugglers take no notice of Rudd's "tough" new rules

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today renewed his attack on the Federal Government's border protection policy as another boat carrying asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters.

Mr Abbott and his deputy leader Julie Bishop have unveiled a mobile billboard in Perth which displays the number of boats which have arrived since the last federal election.

Mr Abbott revealed the massive billboard as news spread of another boat being intercepted on Tuesday night. The Navy intercepted the boat carrying 46 asylum seekers and two crew off the West Australian coast. They will be taken to Christmas Island for health, identity and security checks.

Mr Abbott says the Federal Government has lost control of the country's borders. "When I left my hotel this morning we had had 111 unauthorised boats. By the time I got here half an hour later we had confirmation of a 112th boat," he said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Population growth AND ageing population combined is a recipe for disaster for the health system. Public healthcare will likely be an unviable proposition within ten years without serious limits being placed on treatment options and access. To do that we would have to first kill all the lawyers. Hmmm..