Abbott to call election if government falls
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said this morning that he would immediately call an election if he was asked to form government in the wake of Labor's leadership ructions.
Mr Abbott told ABC radio that he was not interested in forming a minority government if the independent MPs remove their support for the ALP government and call a vote of no confidence.
"I don't want to become prime minister as a result of backroom deals," Mr Abbott said. "If I was asked by the governor-general to form a government I would immediately advise an election. We need a real change and the only way we can get real change is with a real election."
Earlier Mr Abbott had seized on Kevin Rudd's resignation as foreign minister as evidence that the Gillard government is unfit for office and that factional interests dominate the party.
In a statement last night Mr Abbott spruiked his party while attacking Labor's internal culture.
"Kevin Rudd has confirmed two things – that the faceless men are running the Labor Party and that the instability at the top of this government is damaging our country," Mr Abbott said. "This government is unworthy to continue in office."
When questioned in Brisbane, Mr Abbott went on to say, "This government is now terminally dysfunctional and this situation has to be resolved as quickly as possible for the benefit of our country."
Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, called directly for an election. "There should be a ballot, but it should be a ballot all Australians can participate in," he said.
Meanwhile, king-making independent MP Tony Windsor has raised the possibility of a fresh federal election if a Kevin Rudd challenge is successful.
Mr Windsor last night said he was getting "sick of the game that was going on" in the Labor Party over leadership.
"If the Labor Party suddenly want to change arrangements in the middle of the stream all bets are off," he told Sky News. "I'm not going to place myself in the middle of some sort of Fantasy Glades [a theme park] game that's going on and expect to just keep endorsing people whoever the revolving door produces. I did a deal with the current Prime Minister."
Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie refused to be drawn on Mr Rudd's decision.
At a morning press conference yesterday, Mr Wilkie said it was in the national interest for Labor to sort out their differences and get back to work. "I will work with whoever is the leader of the country, whoever is the leader of the Labor Party . . . whether it be Julia Gillard, or Kevin Rudd or Simon Crean," he said.
Queensland maverick Bob Katter, who is close to Mr Rudd, declined to comment.
Greens Leader Bob Brown last night said it would have been better if Mr Rudd had made the announcement in Australia as it was an important domestic issue. "It is a big distraction, people are sick of it. At least this is a circuit breaker," he said.
Independent Rob Oakeshott last night refused to buy into the fallout of Mr Rudd's resignation, saying it was a matter for the Labor Party.
Surgery cancelled on anaesthetised woman
A MEDINA woman who has waited 16 months for elective surgery says she has considered ending her life after having three planned surgeries cancelled by the Health Department.
Pensioner Glynse Schmidt, 65, said she went into hospital for colorectal surgery and was put under general anaesthetic, only to wake up and discover doctors had cancelled her operation at the last minute.
Mrs Schmidt has suffered chronic bowel problems for the past six years and has been waiting on the elective surgery list for over a year.
She says she has "no faith" in the Health Department after her most recent scheduled surgery was cancelled on February 19. "They put me back and put me back. I haven't got any sort of life - I've got cramps in my stomach now and it's constant," Mrs Schmidt said.
"If it was going to continue on last year, I was ready to end my own life. "I'd like to put Colin Barnett in my in my shoes for two weeks without medication to see how he goes, he wouldn't last two days."
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan has taken Mrs Schmidt's plea for help to Parliament, demanding the State Government address a "blow out" in elective surgery waitlists.
"Mrs Schmidt is the human face of the Barnett Government's uncaring attitude towards Western Australians in need and it's failure to address elective surgery waitlists," Mr McGowan said.
"As a pensioner, Mrs Schmidt cannot afford private health care so is forced to suffer months on end as her surgery continues to be pushed further down the waitlist because Premier Colin Barnett considers it to be an elective procedure."
Mrs Schmidt says she was "devastated" to learn her surgery did not go ahead after going under anaesthetic in December 2010. She claimed staff at Fremantle Hospital simply told her to go home and gave her no answers when she asked why the surgery was cancelled.
Her next surgery is scheduled for March 22.
Mr Barnett said the cancelled surgery was "clearly not the result anyone would want" but those on the elective surgery list needed to wait. "The elective list is deemed on clinical and medical grounds not to be life threatening," Mr Barnett said.
"I'm not suggesting they're not painful conditions and cause huge frustration to people, but they are not life threatening conditions and therefore there is a wait."
* Health minister defends department
Health Minister Kim Hames today defended the department, saying there was no record of Mrs Schmidt having surgery cancelled while she was under anaesthetic. "I've had my staff go back three times and check the lists to see if we can find any evidence of that," Dr Hames said.
"I find it extremely difficult to believe that someone would be given an anaesthetic and then woken up and said surgery's cancelled."
Dr Hames conceded the pensioner had had surgery cancelled on two occasions but said it was for other patients who were dying of cancer and needed emergency surgery. "Elective surgery is only cancelled for extreme reasons for patients that are absolutely urgent," he said. "I'd be happy to be cancelled if I was in that position - if someone needed my bed to save their life."
Same-sex couples can sign up for civil unions from Thursday as Queensland's Civil Partnership Act comes into effect on March 5
GAY couples are preparing to line up outside the Brisbane registry office on Thursday to sign up for the state's first civil unions.
That's when the Civil Partnership Act comes into effect, with the first ceremonies able to take place on March 5.
It will give gay couples the same legal rights as married couples.
The move comes after gay couples who dined with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Lodge last night say she acknowledged gay marriage in Australia was inevitable.
Equal rights advocate Phil Browne says that while changing the Marriage Act would be ideal, civil unions are a step in the right direction.
Public sector in dock after review reveals systemic problems
This sounds excellent. One hopes at least some of the recommendations are implemented
PUBLIC sector job cuts, asset sales, congestion tolling, an overhaul of the industrial relations system and the abolition of government agencies have all been flagged following the recommendations of a landmark review of the NSW public sector.
The NSW Commission of Audit was announced by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, after last year's state election and carried out by a former Treasury official, Dr Kerry Schott. The interim report, released yesterday, paints a damning picture of waste and mismanagement.
"The problems this report has uncovered are systemic," it said. "The commission has been surprised at how consistently basic management practices have not been implemented."
Those delivering government services in the state had been forced to make do with cumbersome structures, unnecessary barriers, poor data, unclear reporting lines and ineffective systems. There was a culture of risk aversion, insularity, adherence to procedure and powerlessness, even defeatism, it said.
Dr Schott said the performance of the NSW public sector was "quite poor" compared with its peers and that a four- to five-year reform period would be needed to remedy the problems.
Mr O'Farrell said it "confirms what we've always suspected - that the NSW public sector is performing well below standard and was at that level when we came to office". This had led to deterioration in the state budget.
The report concluded that if the recommended reforms were not implemented then the O'Farrell government's ability to achieve its first-term agenda was "at risk".
Asked to nominate the worst performing parts of the public service, Dr Schott responded they were "everywhere". Among the report's recommendations was that each "cluster" of government departments should review the agencies under them and that the number of agencies be reduced.
"Immediate steps should be taken to group or merge entities where appropriate and abolish them if they no longer serve a purpose," it recommended.
The audit said continual agency amalgamations had contributed to gross inefficiencies. One example identified in the transport cluster showed 130 separate systems were in place to support business processes and reporting. The audit report anticipated that could be reduced to between 12 and 24, saving more than $100 million a year.
Asked to rule out public service job cuts beyond the 5000 redundancies announced in last year's budget, the Treasurer, Mike Baird, said the government would "look at the recommendations before us, manage and balance all the budgetary considerations [and] look at what actions are required".
Other recommendations of the Schott report included a specific unit within Treasury or Finance and Services to "investigate and restructure the lease or sale of assets and businesses to increase funding for new infrastructure".
It recommended Infrastructure NSW and the NSW Treasury examine the introduction of congestion charging for public transport and toll roads to manage demand during peak periods.
It says "charging a higher price during peak periods will convince commuters, who do not have to travel during peak periods, to delay their travel until a later time when the price will be lower".
The audit also recommended a review should be conducted on the NSW Industrial Relations system to create "flexibility" for staff and management and bring it into line with the federal system.
Mr Baird described the report as "a road map for the way forward". It was welcomed by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia as "the clearest diagnosis of the problems that have held the NSW public sector back from delivering world-class services and meeting its infrastructure backlog".
But the Greens MP John Kaye said the report recommended a state "with fewer public servants, less publicly owned infrastructure and more costs for households".