Monday, August 08, 2011

Billions spent but Aborigines little better off, says report

Just about everything has been tried with no results. The one remaining thing that would greatly improve the wellbeing of Aborigines on settlements is better policing of those settlements

THE circumstances of most indigenous Australians are hardly any better today than they were 40 years ago, despite governments having spent tens of billions of dollars, a scathing internal report to federal cabinet says.

The Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure, prepared by the federal Department of Finance, finds that despite efforts by successive Commonwealth, state and territory governments, progress against Aboriginal disadvantage has been "mixed at best". Outcomes have varied between "disappointing" and "appalling".

The federal government spends $3.5 billion a year on indigenous programs but the report finds this "major investment, maintained over many years, has yielded dismally poor returns". The report was submitted in February 2010 when Kevin Rudd was prime minister.

Its contents were publicised last night by Channel Seven after the network fought a long freedom-of-information battle.

The document offers no joy for either main party and contains criticism of the Northern Territory intervention, started by the Howard government, and the Closing the Gap strategy of Labor.

"The history of Commonwealth policy for indigenous Australians over the past 40 years is largely a story of good intentions, flawed policies, unrealistic assumptions, poor implementation, unintended consequences and dashed hopes," it says.

"Strong policy commitments and large investments of government funding have too often produced outcomes which have been disappointing at best and appalling at worst. Individual success stories notwithstanding, the circumstances and prospects on many indigenous Australians are little better in 2010, relative to other Australians, than those which faced their counterparts in 1970."

It says co-ordination between levels of government and agencies is poor, money is still being wasted and greater rigour is needed when assessing programs, especially the intervention, which Labor has continued.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the review was commissioned because the government wanted to improve the lives of indigenous Australians. "Before the significant reform and investment agenda put in place by the government, services and infrastructure for indigenous Australians had faced decades of under-investment and neglect."

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said governments of both persuasions had not applied the same rigour to indigenous programs as other areas but said it was worse under the current one.


Church says spanking is OK, opposes push to ban corporal punishment

MUMS and dads could face court for smacking their children, a major church has warned as it resists the push to ban corporal punishment in the home.

The 600,000-strong Presbyterian Church fears that parents could be stopped from using corporal punishment as yet another state moves to ban smacking.

Under a controversial human rights charter, Victoria will join NSW in outlawing the use of corporal punishment. Under Queensland law, parents are allowed to use "reasonable force" when disciplining their children.

In a submission to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry, the church said that the charter could be used to dump the common law right to smack children provided force wasn't unreasonable or excessive. "Many Australian families use reasonable physical discipline from time to time," the church said. "There is a significant body of research confirming its utility in raising children well."

But Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Dr Joe Tucci yesterday said it was never right to hit children and NSW's lead should be followed. "If parents are really angry or frustrated at the time that they're doing it they could inadvertently hurt kids and that's our concern about it," he said. "More and more parents are moving away from physical punishment because it's not effective."

However, adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said it was ridiculous to legislate against smacking. "I don't think we should be criminalising people who, when their children run across the road, they give them a tap on the bum," he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said he didn't believe smacking was the solution to bad behaviour, but attempts to ban it had not worked.

A recent [bogus] study said that parents who smacked their children could be depriving them of the skills they needed to cope with school and even with adulthood.

The Presbyterian church submission said Australia was being pressured to ban corporal punishment by a United Nations committee overseeing implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Online health records face uphill battle

A NEW online medical records system is doomed to failure because not enough people will sign up for it, the Australian Medical Association has warned.

From July 1 next year, patients will have to volunteer to "opt in" to the system, which stores all their health details, including test results and prescriptions, in a national database. It's the first time patients will be able to access their medical information.

The AMA believes inclusion in the federal government's Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system should be automatic unless patients choose to "opt out". Otherwise, many patients in nursing homes, the elderly or others who are not "technically savvy" will miss out, the group's national president, Steve Hambleton, said.

Mr Hambleton said the medical profession supported the concept of having a one-stop source of medical information "but people should be asked if they want to leave the scheme, not if they want to join".

"When they did this in Auckland, where they had a million people, only 91 people opted out," he said.

John Bennett, chair of the e-health national standing committee at the Royal Australian College of General Practice, said the opt-in issue would be challenging.

"Unless you get enough people taking part in the system, that's healthcare providers and the community, it's hard to have enough information available to make it useful," he said.

As well as information uploaded from a patient's doctor or specialists, patients will be able to add details about their medical history including information about allergies and medications. They can also choose who can read the information, which, in theory, could prevent a medical practitioner from accessing the record.

The federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said the system would stop the fragmentation of medical records so that paper and computer records were not spread across a patient's GP, specialist and hospital emergency rooms.

"Patients will no longer have to remember every immunisation, every medical test and every prescription as they move from doctor to doctor," she said.


Aged care controversy

Should some people get for free what others have worked and saved for?

WHEN it releases a major report on aged care tomorrow, the government will unleash a debate that, if not handled carefully, could turn into a fresh nightmare for Julia Gillard.

The PM wants to make dealing with the practicalities of an ageing population another front for "decision and delivery". But seniors' policy, broadly defined, is fraught.

Bob Hawke had a dreadful time over putting an assets test on pensions - it dominated the 1984 election. Early in his government, John Howard was embroiled in a damaging row over aged-care accommodation bonds. Both these governments were in strong shape when these controversies arose. The Gillard government is in anything but.

While we are yet to see the full detail of tomorrow's Productivity Commission (PC) report, Caring for Older Australians, if it follows the January draft version it will contain some strong meat. The draft proposed greater competition in the system and a more user-pays approach for those who can afford it. The recommendations were complicated but the message was spelt out at the time by the PC deputy chairman, Mike Woods. Under its proposals, Woods said, people on low income and with few assets would certainly be protected while "those who have high wealth or high incomes" would be expected to pay more for their care.

The argument for this may be logical and fair but the political difficulties are another matter. The PC operates in a framework of economic rationality. The community argument over aged care is usually conducted in an atmosphere of emotional heat; obviously, this is a highly sensitive matter for individuals and families. This issue is also tailor-made for Tony Abbott to exploit, as then opposition leader Andrew Peacock did in 1984.

Gillard has said the government won't announce decisions immediately. But how long can it safely let the debate, and surrounding uncertainty, run? Should it rule out some extreme measures quickly? If anyone is looking for a test of political management, this is a doozy.

If the politics suggests a rerun of earlier controversies, the changing nature of the ageing issue is a challenge not just for government but for the community generally and for employers in particular.

Gillard last week highlighted a couple of interesting points. We have two generations of seniors - the baby boomers coming into or towards retirement and their parents - the 65-year-old and his 90-year-old mum. And the "me" generation baby boomers will be highly demanding "me" retirees, wanting choice as well as the more traditional wish for security.

Many of the baby boomers, however, will be working longer, full time or part time. The government has already committed to phasing in a later pension age. Even by necessity, the "young aged" will have to soldier on. That will require changes in the attitude of some employers who, while accepting in theory the desirability of older employees, are not so welcoming in practice.

As the debate on ageing again comes centre stage, former Hawke government minister Susan Ryan has just become the inaugural Age Discrimination Commissioner. Ryan says her priorities are keeping older people who want to work in employment and keeping the frailer aged in their homes when possible. In her new job, Ryan finds herself in a growth industry.
Ads by Google


1 comment:

Paul said...

Yes I'm looking forward to paying extra to have some barely-trained skanky, fat Personal Care Attendant rifling through my bedside locker for loose change to help her (usually a her) with her gambling and recreational medication needs, thinking I'm too demented to know what she's up to. Of course in our de-regulated and de-skilled Nursing Home sector that just NEVER happens. We live in the Socialist Utopia, dontcha know.