Sunday, September 26, 2010

A very weak excuse for breaking an election promise

Sounds like the Greens are punching way above their weight

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says it is not her fault that she may break an election promise and introduce a carbon tax while leader of the federal government.

Five days before the August 21 poll, Ms Gillard said there would be no carbon tax under the government she led. However, she has since vowed to set up a committee made up of MPs from all sides of politics to examine ways of pricing carbon.

Ms Gillard said because Labor now shared the balance of power in the lower house with the Australian Greens and independents, the circumstances around her original promise had changed. "We can't just go to the House of Representatives and say, `Here is the government's position' and five minutes later it's passed by the house," she told Network Ten on Sunday.

Ms Gillard said she would use the committee to work towards a carbon tax with the Greens and independents.

The coalition is welcome to participate in the talks too she added, but committee membership is only extended to those who agree a carbon tax in necessary.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said he would never put a price on carbon unless it became part of an enforceable international system.


Another disastrous "Green" scheme

Home water tanks in lieu of new dams

Three years ago, owning a water tank business was a licence to print money. Then the rebates were cut and the rains came. Now what was the busiest industry on the block is practically non-existent, as 400 water tank operators have been whittled to 12.

Millions of dollars have been lost, businesses have disappeared and customers wanting tanks for their homes have evaporated.

Leisa Donlan, from independent body the Association of Rotational Moulders, said it was the "industry that has been forgotten".

"Lives have been absolutely shattered by this. What the state government did by introducing the rebate and then cutting it all of a sudden was just awful," she said. "Family businesses have been ruined. Our staff have been suicidal some days after counselling the people involved. "Losing a business is a very human thing."

Department of Environment and Resource Management figures showed that across the state more than 250,000 Queenslanders claimed the rebate for a water tank.

"At the peak of the drought and the WaterWise Rebate Scheme, there were four-month waits. Manufacturers were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Ms Donlan said.

"State government ministers themselves came out and said that the industry needed to invest in better equipment to keep up with the demand, to step it up.

"Then, all of a sudden in June 2007, as quickly as it started, the rebate for the tanks stopped. Manufacturers had spent tens of millions of dollars buying new equipment to cope with the excessive demand and all of a sudden the demand was gone. Overnight. It was devastating."

Toby Peacock, owner of Brisbane water tank business QTank, said the abolition of the rebate, coupled with the breaking of the drought, had all but "killed" the industry.

"During the height of the drought, water was all everyone was talking about. People were desperate for water tanks, desperate to conserve water and everyone was wanting to safeguard themselves," he said.

"But once the rebate ended and the drought started to break, people moved on to talking about something else. They forgot how important it is to conserve water. Tanks were no longer fashionable."

Under Brisbane City Council planning regulations, all new dwellings must include a 5000-litre water tank to gain approval.

This regulation is the only thing keeping a handful of operators in business, Mr Peacock said. "Every night I go to bed nervous, praying that when I wake up in the morning, the government won’t have cancelled this regulation," he said.

Ms Donlan said the lack of support for the industry was disappointing because it was highly likely water consumption would be an issue again in the future.


'Miracle cure' market unpoliced

WIDESPREAD criticism of the Therapeutic Goods Administration has forced the Gillard government to look at overhauling Australia's drugs regulator because it is failing to adequately police the $2 billion industry in "miracle" cures and other quasi-health devices.

Claims that "therapeutic" products can cure everything from AIDS to cancer, guarantee weight loss or improve strength, balance and flexibility are misleading and deceptive and can sometimes lead to lethal results, health experts say.

The federal Department of Health and Ageing released a consultation paper on the advertising of therapeutic goods in June, saying it was important the public received accurate information about the risks as well as the purported benefits of these goods on the market.

"Concerns have been raised by some opponents of the current advertising framework that the system is not working to protect consumers as well as it might," the paper said. "There is a perception that the complaints handling process is not as transparent as it could be, and that the sanctions available to the [TGA's] complaints resolution panel … do not provide sufficient deterrence."

Unlike registered pharmaceutical drugs, most herbal and complementary medicines are "listed" by the TGA, which means their makers pay a fee and are expected to have evidence to back their claims. Listed products are not reviewed by the TGA but are subject to random audits.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore said there was a perception the TGA did not take consumer protection seriously. Its "light touch" approach was no longer appropriate in an industry where Australians spend more than $2 billion a year.

He said product names such as "Fat Magnet", "Weight Loss Accelerate" and "Slim Me" were, in his view, misleading and deceptive and provided minimal or no information about known adverse side effects.

Under the Therapeutic Goods Act, there is no provision for the TGA to impose civil penalties for breaches of the advertising code. The TGA can only remove products from the register and refer repeated breaches of the advertising code to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal prosecution, where the maximum penalty is a $6600 fine for individuals and $33,000 for corporations.

TGA spokeswoman Kay McNiece said most companies supplying therapeutic goods to the Australian market did comply with advertising requirements, but "the complaint handling arrangements for those companies that do not comply could be improved".

One long-standing critic of the TGA, La Trobe University public health expert Dr Ken Harvey, said it was failing to protect customers from unproven complementary medicines and devices that may be shonky. "If the TGA moves at all, it moves with glacial speed," Dr Harvey said.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King said she was worried by the number of companies pushing the boundaries and would consider all 38 submissions before taking appropriate action


Ambulance delays threat to lives

DESPERATELY ill Victorians seeking urgent ambulance assistance are routinely facing a life-threatening waits for help, new documents reveal. More than one in six Victorians calling for emergency aid are waiting longer than the State Government benchmark for acceptable service, the previously unseen Ambulance Victoria information shows.

A dossier of Code One (lights and sirens) ambulance response times for metropolitan Melbourne over a two-year period shows 87,514 cases where patients waited longer than the 15-minute threshold set by the Brumby Government.

Analysis of the documents, obtained through Freedom Of Information, reveals 321 cases of patients waiting more than an hour from April 2008 to April 30 this year - an average of more than 13 a month.

On January 29 last year, 12 ambulance call-outs took more than an hour each to reach their destinations on the same day, including a call at 4.20pm to Kew that took more than one hour and 50 minutes and a call to Reservoir three minutes later that took more than one hour and 40 minutes.

On a single day in October 2008, four ambulances dispatched within 20 minutes of each other to different part of Melbourne were delayed for more than an hour.

Other shock findings from the log include:

AN ambulance to Springvale on March 23 that took an hour and 40 minutes;

A WAIT of more than two hours for specialist help in Gladstone Park on August 24, 2008 when an ambulance called at 11.58am from a house did not arrive from nearby Essendon until 2.11pm;

A PATIENT stranded in Hastings on April 10 for an hour and 30 minutes; and

AN ambulance to McMahons Creek on April 10 that took an hour and 31 minutes.

Ambulance Victoria defended its performance in the Gladstone Park emergency, suggesting that the call had originally been logged as Code Two, but was upgraded once ambulance officers arrived.

The response times are based on arrival of the first ambulance only, not subsequent units with specialist equipment that may be required.

Release of the data comes days after a man with a severed finger had to pay a $300 taxi fare from Maryborough to Melbourne because no ambulance was available.

Ambulance Employees' Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said the trend continued with a 55-year-old Lalor woman suffering severe abdominal pain who was forced to wait more than two hours for a Code One ambulance last Sunday.

"I don't even think that waiting 15 minutes is acceptable," he said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"'Miracle cure' market unpoliced"

Whatever happened to "let the buyer beware"?