Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How an Australian Leftist government looks after blacks

A Leftist State government is abandoning poor children who have vision and hearing problems

There has been only passing mention of this in the media so I thought I might flesh it out a little.

Ever since 1911 Queensland has had specially trained nurses going around all the schools testing children's vision and hearing and keeping an eye out for any other health problems that they might detect.

This has been especially important in lower socio-economic areas where parents are often not alert to such problems in their children or do not have the confidence to do anything about problems that they are aware of. In such communities the nurse can often galvanize action on a child's vision or hearing loss at an early age and thus remove very large roadblocks to the child's educational progress.

This has been particularly so where Aboriginals (native blacks) are concerned as hearing loss is something of an epidemic among Aboriginal children and the parents are usually far too timid to do anything about it.

So what is the latest from Queensland Health on the centenary of this invaluable service? They are cancelling it. As a substitute they have agreed to pay local GPs a small sum to carry out such testing on anyone who comes in for it

So for a start they have just lost the Aborigines. Many Aborigines won't be alert to the problems concerned and in any case will rarely have the confidence to approach local GPs about such problems. The people who need the assistance of school nurses the most are now having it taken away from them.

And few GPs have the experience and equipment to do a job as good as the job that the specialized nurses do.

And it will just lengthen the already long waits to see a doctor in lower socio-economic areas. In such areas it can take a couple of weeks to get an appointment with a GP. So Queensland Health is just putting a new burden onto already overstretched GPs and stretching out waiting times for appointments even further.

So why is Queensland Health doing this dastardly deed to the poor families of Queensland? Budget cuts. They have spent hundreds of millions on getting their botched payroll system working and the money has got to come from somewhere.

But why take it away from frontline services? 20 years ago the school nurses had only a couple of employees in addition to the nurses themselves. Now there is a great bureaucracy that is more numerous than the nurses. If there have to be cuts, why not cut back the bureaucracy to what it was 20 years ago? The sevice ran perfectly well for many decades without a huge bureaucracy on top of it and could easily do so again.

But Leftist goverments regard their bureaucracies as sacred for some inscrutable reason so that is the last thing they will consider. I guess it gives them a feeling of power to have so many people dependant on them. Pity about the poor, though.

The Minister for Health in the Queensland State government is Hon. Geoff Wilson MP

You can email him here

The unfixable bureaucracy again

Queensland Health in more payroll trauma

FURTHER angst over the Queensland Health payroll system has erupted after complaints over cases of inaccurate overpayment letters distributed to staff in the past weeks. The state government has spent $90 million fixing the system, which left thousands of workers overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

But the saga is not over yet. Affected nurses have been sent letters asking them to look at their pay records and determine if they owe Queensland Health any money.

Department Deputy Director General John Cairns defended Queensland Heath's payroll system, saying it had vastly improved since the trouble last year.

"You can appreciate there's been a lot of water under the bridge since what happened last March, our systems are vastly improved on where they are and we're confident about the data in our pay roll system - keep in mind the complexity of what we're talking about 80,000 staff," he said.

"For our staff who do have concerns and wish us to explain it in more detail, we will sit down and talk with them about what the issues are. "When we stopped recovering overpayments last year at the request of our staff and the Queensland Industry Relations Commission - we always said we would have to engage in this process so there should be no surprise with where we are."

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle says an already sensitive issue is now completely out of hand. "In the light of what happened in the last 15 months, now forwarding out these letters is traumatic for many people and their families," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday. Health Minister Geoff Wilson must clarify what documents should be used to establish a debt to Queensland Health, how debts would be negotiated, if mediation would be offered, and who would pay for it, Mr McArdle said. "The language in the letter is very poor," he said.

"Anybody claiming money is owed to them has a legal obligation to establish that claim. "It's not up to the person that money is being sought from."

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said it was unfortunate workers needed to scour their records but there was no other way. "We are strongly urging our members to check what Queensland Health is claiming," she told AAP. "They're going to have to because I wouldn't trust them with the system the way that it is, given that it was so unstable." She said staff should be allowed to make those checks on work time.

Ms Mohle said union members had been urged to record their work hours since last year to match with what they'd been paid. "They could have been underpaid as well," she said. "And Queensland Health has given a commitment that they'll correct the underpayments before they recover overpayments."


Saving the planet will destroy the economy

MARGARET Thatcher's one time right-hand man Nigel Lawson is not so much a climate sceptic as sceptical of the necessity for action, let alone the ways we are tackling climate change.

Lawson will be in Sydney in six weeks to expound his views at a public debate on the proposition: "We need a carbon tax to help stop global warming."

The combatants themselves should raise temperatures. The former British chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary will lead a negative team comprising former Keating government minister Gary Johns and University of Adelaide geologist and author of the sceptic's bible Heaven and Earth, Ian Plimer.

The affirmative will be put by two former opposition leaders, John Hewson and Mark Latham, backed by University of NSW climatologist Benjamin McNeil.

Lawson says it is scientifically established that increased carbon dioxide emissions will warm the planet, but adds, "it is uncertain how great any such warming would be and how much harm, if any, it would do". He urges governments "to consider the damaging economic impact of blindly following the climate change agenda".

He dismisses as "complete nonsense" the argument that Australia has a special responsibility as a carbon-intensive economy and big coal producer to show global policy leadership.

"If China wants to develop and wants to increase productivity through, among other things, increasing electricity output rapidly and has been building coal-fired power stations and wants to import the coal to fuel them from Australia, I think you would be mad if you didn't supply it," he tells The Weekend Australian.

Lawson sees continuing strong demand for Australian coal despite promises by China and India to reduce their energy intensity, calling the pledges "cover". "Economic development happens because of increased economic efficiency," he says. "That means increasing labour productivity and that also means increasing the productivity of the other factors of production of which energy is one of the most important."

Lawson adds the development of a less energy-intensive services sector is one of the characteristics of economic development. But he adds: "That doesn't mean energy consumption will decline. Energy consumption will rise. Carbon consumption will rise because economic growth will trump the lesser amount of energy used for each particular unit of output."

He calls energy intensity promises by China and India "convenient cover for their saying, quite rightly, 'no way are we going to impede or in any way slow down our economic development by having restrictions on the use of carbon energy'. They go for carbon intensity rather than carbon emissions, which they can be perfectly confident is bound to decline through a process of development as it has in every country in the world."

Lawson warns our politicians not to hold up his own party's policies as exemplars.

Julia Gillard regularly points to British Prime Minister David Cameron's environmental plans to embarrass the Coalition, but Lawson says Tory backbenchers "are increasingly uncomfortable and indeed hostile to policies [that] are being proposed on the climate change front, which mean higher energy costs, which are bad for consumers ... and bad for British industry".

He points out Cameron and his ministers have a plan B. "The government has said it will review the matter in January 2014 in the light of what other European countries are doing and this is clearly a get-out clause, this is clearly new, and it was clearly put in at the behest of the Treasury as both the Treasury and Treasury ministers are very concerned at the cost of going it alone."

Economics and energy security are at the core of Lawson's critique of the climate policy debate. "The world relies on carbon-based energy simply because it is by far the cheapest available source of energy and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future," he says. "The major developing countries, in particular, are understandably unwilling to hold back their development and condemn their people to avoidable poverty by moving from relatively cheap energy to relatively expensive energy."

Lawson heralds new developments that permit extraction of gas from shale in an economic way as "one of the most remarkable technological developments there has been", saying the shift from coal to gas that is set to follow will cut emissions.

"This is carbon energy but the amount of carbon dioxide produced per terawatt of energy generated from gas is half that from coal," he says. "You don't eliminate carbon emissions but you reduce them quite considerably by moving from coal to gas. Of course the environmentalists are appalled by this because they believe that carbon energy has to be eliminated altogether but that's not going to happen."

Lawson returns once again to the cost of renewable energy. "If renewable energy is cheaper than carbon energy, then that's fine," he says, "but for the present time and in the foreseeable future most forms of renewable energy are massively more expensive."

Lawson dismisses as economic illiteracy claims of a green jobs boom powered by renewables that will mop up unemployment from the structural adjustment to a low-carbon economy, recruiting one of the great classical liberals to back his case.

"The French 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat said you might as well go round breaking windows saying you're creating jobs for glaziers. The fact is you can't look at just one sector. The government can create jobs by employing large numbers of people to build statues of prominent politicians. You can always create jobs in a particular area.

"What you've got to be concerned about are jobs in the economy as a whole and you don't create jobs in the economy as a whole by promoting something [that] is wholly uneconomic and has to be subsidised."

Lawson has strong views about what decarbonisation means. "The plain fact is the total economy will be harmed. A lot of these green jobs will be in China. The Chinese can see there is a market in the West for solar panels and other things so they are producing them very much more cheaply. In so far as there are jobs they will be there, not in the consuming countries."


Fibre network to bring higher costs and new monopoly, Victoria warns

THE $36 billion National Broadband Network could saddle consumers with unnecessarily high internet costs and hold back competition, the Victorian government warns in a scathing assessment of federal Labor's broadband plans.

As pressure on the Gillard government grows from conservative states over the NBN, Victoria's Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips has warned that taxpayers could "pay multiple times" if the NBN duplicates existing fibre connections to schools, hospitals and businesses.

In a submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into the NBN, Victoria has warned Canberra that it appears to have given "excessive" protections to the NBN Co against competition and cautions about the risks of setting up the network as a large public monopoly.

"After over two decades of national economic and financial reform, the NBN proposal in its present form represents a very serious threat to the long-term competition in the telecommunications sector," the submission warns.

"The increasingly apparent risk is that the commonwealth could, over time, fully replicate a dysfunctional telecommunications market structure that has hindered investments in the current broadband market. This would be the result if it simply replaces Telstra's market power with an NBN Co infrastructure monopoly with all the attendant inefficiencies and constraints on investment, innovation and future policymaking."

Victoria describes information about the NBN rollout as "ad hoc" and says there was "minimal effective engagement" with the states in developing the National Digital Economy Strategy, even though they deliver key services such as health and education.

The comments are the strongest challenge yet by a state government to Labor's NBN plans, which represent a key plank of Julia Gillard's reform agenda.

They come as the conservative governments of Victoria, NSW and Western Australia challenge the Prime Minister on other reforms such as the carbon tax, the mining tax and health.

Late yesterday, Paul Broad, incoming chief executive of the new independent body Infrastructure NSW, pledged to do what he could to avoid a costly broadband rollout. "We understand that NSW has an enormous amount of fibre already," Mr Broad told The Australian. "We understand that NSW businesses, hospitals, schools are connected to fibre today. NSW will use that to the benefits of the NSW economy and access the NBN only to those parts where they are not covered today."

The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last night insisted the government did not expect NBN Co to inefficiently duplicate existing infrastructure that could support high-speed broadband.

"It should also be noted that the definitive agreements between Telstra and NBN Co allow for re-use of existing infrastructure, which will avoid infrastructure duplication," Senator Conroy's spokesman said.

In its submission, the Victorian government stresses that ubiquitous high-speed broadband could deliver substantial benefits, that existing services are inadequate in some areas and that Canberra's objectives to reform the telecommunications market are important. But risks are emerging.

On cost, Victoria argues cheaper alternatives to Labor's fibre-to-the-premises model should be available where this would meet broadband needs.

On competition, the submission cites concerns about Telstra and Optus removing broadband services provided over their pay-TV networks as well as the ban on potential NBN rivals cherry-picking lucrative areas.

Victoria also argues that states and local governments have faced uncertainty about the rollout and its priorities.

NBN Co is conducting a study into extending the fibre rollout to Julia Creek in outback Queensland. The move comes after a backlash from residents angry that the main cable passes the town, but does not connect them because there are less than 1000 premises.

McKinlay Shire Mayor Paul Woodhouse said: "I appreciate they are rolling out a multi-billion-dollar program, but it comes back to our planning, our inability to plan. "It's just a nightmare as far as our future planning goes."

Senator Conroy's spokesman said it was "completely absurd" to claim there had been minimal engagement, while an NBN Co spokeswoman said it was "keen to engage with all levels of government to discuss our plans".

"This engagement is continuing and is likely to ramp up as the network rollout accelerates," Senator Conroy's spokesman said.


Abortion furore rages after church sacks hospital board

Sacked St Andrew's Toowoomba Hospital governors are planning legal action after the Presbyterian Church of Queensland abruptly removed them from their posts amid tensions over the hospital's abortion policy and the church's influence on operations.

The PCQ dismissed 12 of the hospital's governors last week.

Yesterday, former board members said they were planning a legal challenge to their dismissal and bristled at perceptions they took a pro-choice stance on abortion.

Former board member Paul McMahon said the sacked governors refused to back a motion suggesting the hospital not perform abortions unless the mother was threatened with immediate death. But he said the hospital's current position on abortion was "hardly a loose policy".

"The hospital already has very, very strict termination laws such that there were only two terminations last year," he said. "One related to a dead baby in the womb and the other related to a baby that would not survive outside the womb. "What's happened now is that the hospital and past governors are being painted as pro-choice. That sickens me."

Mr McMahon said the sacked governors were considering defamation proceedings and also believed the church contravened corporations law when it asked governors up for re-election to sign a nomination form pledging to act according to the tenets of the church. "[The law] says that a director's first duty is to the organisation, you can't have two masters," he said. "We said we couldn't sign them because in our view they contravene corporations law."

PCQ moderator Graeme McKay told ABC radio yesterday morning media reports of the sackings had focused too heavily on the abortion issue. He said the governors were removed last week because they were trying to limit the church's influence on the hospital. "The reason they were removed is some of these governors were seen to be taking steps to remove the church from the hospital," he said.

"The Presbyterian Church does have a statement on abortion and some of the board members took an issue with the church's position on abortion."

Former St Andrew's vice-chairman Jock Lambie said he still hasn't been notified by the church of his dismissal. He said he received a phone call from Mr Fairweather last Monday saying he had been sacked three hours before a board meeting he had expected to attend. Dr Lambie said he expected a review of the hospital's abortion policy to be the new board's first order of business.

However he defended the existing stance on abortion. "The only abortions that are done are when the baby is not expected to survive," he said. "They [the church] leave that up to God. That's alright except none of them are women, so they don't know what it's like carrying a monster in their belly.

"The two most recent terminations that were done, the babies had no heads. How would you like to carry that, knowing it was there, for an extra 20 weeks to go through a painful labour and produce a child that lives for five minutes?"

Yesterday, St Andrew's chief executive Ray Fairweather said the hospital would follow the wishes of the new board of governors, which is expected to review the hospital's abortion policy. Mr Fairweather said he would have no problem working with the new board appointed by the PCQ.

"[A change in abortion policy] is up to the board of governors," he said. "I have 35 years' experience working with boards of directors, I've established new boards, I've worked with any range of boards and this is just another situation that I have to work with."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Im in receipt of a letter from QH telling me I owe them 2500 dollars. Most of this comes from an error which I reported and made good on months ago when it happened. The others smaller sums involved relate to payslips that only a numerologist could interpret. The implication in their letter is that I have to interpret the error ridden payslips and prove to them that I don't owe them anything. Other colleagues here have had similar and also I'm told that every nurse up at Mareeba Hospital got a similar letter. The fury is palpable.