Friday, May 24, 2013

NSW Health Minister to get tough on vaccination ignoramuses

Where taxpayer-subsidized childcare facilities are concerned, I would make a full vaccination record a condition of entry. Fanatical anti-vaccination parents can set up their own centres and infect one-another

UNVACCINATED children could be banned from childcare centres under changes to the law planned by Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

In what would be a significant victory for The Daily Telegraph's and Sunday Telegraph's "No Jab No Play" campaign, Ms Skinner revealed she was planning to act on unvaccinated children attending childcare.

"I have, for some time, been discussing with the NSW Chief Health Officer measures to deal with unvaccinated children accessing childcare services and expect to be able to introduce amending legislation in the near future," the minister said.

"No Jab, No Play" was launched this month to stop the rise in the number of children succumbing to preventable diseases because parents are failing to have them fully immunised.

Ms Skinner said any changes would allow parents with a "genuine objection" to be exempt. This would include medical reasons and "objection, on grounds such as religious beliefs".

Ms Skinner said she supported the public health benefits of vaccination.

"The truth is there is something to fear from not being vaccinated," she said.  "If you have ever seen a baby with whooping cough or a young child struggling with measles you will know vaccination is the way to go."

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would allow childcare centres to turn away unvaccinated children and review benefits paid to vaccine refusers.

Opposition Leader John Robertson will introduce legislation into parliament today to give preschools and childcare centres the right to ban children who are not immunised.  However, the government is unlikely to vote for changes drafted by the opposition.

Mr Robertson said the government should be protecting preschool-aged children from preventable diseases.

"This shouldn't be about the alternative wishes of parents who choose to ignore the advice of doctors; it has to be about the health of our children and young people," he said.

 NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said he's prepared to amend the state's anti-discrimination laws to allow preschools and care centres to refuse children who haven't been vaccinated.

Mr O'Farrell said he hadn't seen Mr Robertson's bill but his government supported in principle the right for preschools to ban unvaccinated students.   ``We're happy to see what their legislation is but if we don't think their legislation reflects what we've decided, we'll introduce our own," he told reporters on Tuesday.

``We don't rule out amendments to the anti-discrimination legislation if they're necessary to uphold existing and long-standing public health practice and policies."


Independent Schools unite to oppose Labor Party reforms

INDEPENDENT schools have struck out against the Gillard government's proposed Gonski education funding changes, declaring that the budget shows not only no additional money but a "significant reduction" for non-government schools.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia has warned Julia Gillard that, without funds to replace the budget cuts, "independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students".

The ISCA, like the National Catholic Education Commission, has complained to the Prime Minister about uncertainty arising from the budget's immediate education forecasts and challenged Labor's public claims about increased funding.

There is now a unified national front from the non-government school sector querying the benefits of the Gonski reforms, undermining the Prime Minister's campaign to get the remaining five premiers and two chief ministers to sign a national agreement by June 30.

Ms Gillard has been campaigning all week to get leaders to join NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, claiming schools would be $16.2 billion worse off over 10 years if her reforms were not accepted and Tony Abbott were elected.

The Independent Education Union in NSW yesterday joined the NSW Catholic Education Commission in strongly objecting to the proposed funding changes and asking members to immediately lobby federal Labor MPs over the "little prospect of significant additional funding, to public, Catholic and independent schools in the short term".

"Catholic and independent employer associations continue to be frustrated by the lack of robustness and stability of the proposed models for funding distribution," the union said.

The letter to Ms Gillard from the Independent Schools Council of Australia, obtained by The Australian, said: "It is difficult to undertake a fully informed analysis of the budget papers due to the unusual circumstances of there being no information in the papers relating to school enrolment projections or information on growth factors beyond December 31, 2013."

Overall, the letter says, there is a "reduction in Australian government funding for schools rather than the increases to school funding that the government indicated would flow to disadvantaged students".

The council was having "difficulty reconciling" budget figures "with the government's public commitments".

Specifically, the independent schools complain about the redirection of National Plan for School Improvement funds and the loss of Targeted Programs, which appears to cut funding for the next two years.

"Without an appropriate level of replacement funding from these loadings for 2014 onwards, independent schools will not be in a position to adequately support their disadvantaged students," the letter says.

"This immediate loss of Targeted Programs means that any replacement funding is required from the first year of implementation in 2014, not phasing in to 2019 or beyond."

The National Catholic Education Commission has also "strongly expressed" its dissatisfaction to the Gillard government over "an unsatisfactory situation" on funding that "still drags on and now threatens to become a political football for several more months".

On Wednesday, the NSW head of the Catholic Education Commission, Bishop Anthony Fisher, said the process and calculations for non-government school funding for 2014 and beyond were uncertain, imprecise, extremely complex and annually variable.

Tony Abbott and the opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, have accused the Gillard government of a "con" and a budget "fiddle" over the figures and rejected Labor's claims that $16.2bn will be lost to schools if the Gonski reforms are not implemented.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said last night Ms Gillard had had "positive discussions" with independent schools since the letter was written. "Funding for independent schools will increase year on year - that is clear from the budget," the spokesman said.


Good riddance to car manufacturing in Australia

Despite government directing billions of dollars in corporate welfare towards Australia’s car industry, Ford has upped stumps and will stop manufacturing cars in Australia in 2016.

While this is bad news for employees of Ford and its suppliers, it will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of wasteful government subsidies for Australia’s inefficient and expensive car industry. Check out the CIS’ press release on the Ford closures here.

To help employees in the car industry find new jobs, perhaps the government should abolish our outdated and redundant industrial award system to create a more flexible and productive labour market as outlined in a new report released today by CIS researcher Alexander Philipatos.

Unfortunately, the government probably won’t understand our recommendations, given that they are already struggling to understand their own referendum on recognising local government in the constitution.

In other news, the government is spending $2 million to prop up the ‘independent’ [Leftist] website The Conversation.  Independence from government cannot be guaranteed by government funding. That’s why the CIS has never accepted government money and never will.

Via email from CIS

Fast and loose talk about the ALP budget deficit

IT has been quite a week for economic pointy heads. First we had Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson deliver his normal post-budget speech. This year the title was "Budgeting in Challenging Times".

We then had the release of a working paper authored by a number of Treasury officials entitled "Estimating the Structural Budget Balance of the Australian Government: An Update".

And to confuse matters even more, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report entitled "Estimates of the Structural Budget Balance of the Australian Government: 2001-02 to 2016-17".

If you are thinking it sounds like a high degree of overlap, you are not wrong.

So here is Parkinson's view of the world. "As the economy expands, government expenditure has tended to expand with it and thus the scope of government services per person has increased, albeit remaining roughly constant as a share of GDP. We also know that health and pension expenditure are set to increase further as the population ages and as changes in preferences and technology drive increased expenditure on health services."

But here's the thing - as the economy expands and per capita income rises, we should expect the role of government to diminish, not expand. As a consequence of being wealthier, the welfare bill should decline, at least relatively, and an increasing proportion of the population should purchase services privately.

That this has not occurred thus far should not deter our top economic bureaucrat from drawing our attention to the fact that government services shouldn't be regarded as superior goods - the technical term for a good or service the demand for which rises more than proportionately with income.

This point links in with one of the key messages of the Treasury working paper and the PBO report: if it were not for those damned income tax cuts implemented through 2003-04 and 2008-09, all would be hunky dory. The PBO, for instance, attributes two-thirds of the structural budget deficits in the 10 years ending 2011-12 to the income tax cuts.

Are they kidding? Are we expected to believe that the government would not have spent those extra income tax receipts? Given that the Labor government was prepared to run down the negative net debt position it inherited, raid any trust funds hanging around and borrow to spend even more money, this assumption is heroic to say the least.

And can I be just a little bit picky here? The mother-of-all income tax cuts was actually implemented by the Rudd government, after the Ruddster decided to match the proposal for income tax cuts made by John Howard in the 2007 election campaign. This round of income tax cuts was estimated to "cost" more than $30 billion.

But where is the economic modelling telling us how the economic pie has grown as a result of these income tax cuts? And where is the obvious point that people value a dollar in their own pockets more highly than they value a dollar in the pockets of Canberra bureaucrats?

Take another howler in the PBO report - it removes the stimulus spending from its calculations of the structural budget balance. Because? Evidently the $67bn in expenditure identified as "stimulus spending" is somehow not real. Weirdly, the costs of servicing the accumulated debt are included.

By excluding the stimulus spending, the PBO estimates of the structural budget deficits during the terms of the Labor government are significantly reduced. And note that the estimates in the PBO report don't line up with the Treasury estimates for 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

On this point it is hard to disagree with Parkinson: "Those that produce structural budget balance estimates should be transparent about their methodology, clear about their assumptions and open about how sensitive the estimates are to plausible changes in key parameters."

But one of the messages of the estimates of the structural budget balances produced by Treasury and the PBO this week cannot go unchallenged. This message is that the budgetary pickle we are in is really all the fault of Howard and Peter Costello.

To be blunt, this is just rubbish. Even if we assume that Howard and Costello overspent by not producing even bigger cash surpluses, this government has had plenty of time to reverse the tax cuts and institute spending restraint. It has done neither.

And to blame other factors, such as the decision to abandon the indexation of petroleum excise, is just bizarre. Get over it, I say. The decision was taken by the Howard government. If the Labor government didn't like it, indexation could have been reinstated.

Economic pointy heads aside, I can't believe anyone is taking any notice of this arcane discussion of the true state of the budget. And bear in mind, the forecast improvement to the structural budget balance is completely dependent on the forward projections in this year's budget being met. The government has a very poor record when it comes to budget projections coming true.

The real discussion we need to have is that lower taxes are good - they encourage work effort and create incentives for investment and saving - and government spending needs to be limited and restricted to those areas with the highest net social benefits.


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