Friday, January 03, 2014

No GP fee for families, pensioners

THE man who proposed a $5 fee on bulk-billing doctors to the government's razor gang has backed down after four days of criticism and wants families and pensioners exempt from the charge.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's former health adviser Terry Barnes says he is feeling "harassed" by the criticism his proposal has generated and that his plan may need fine tuning.

It comes as former Australia Medical Association president Bill Glasson, who is running as a Liberal National Party candidate in former prime minister Kevin Rudd's seat, has backed the $5 fee.

"I do support an affordable price signal, but we have to make sure it wouldn't impact on the most vulnerable in our society, especially children, the elderly, Indigenous and patients with chronic conditions," said Mr Glasson.

"If you can afford to pay you should pay, to keep the system fair and affordable," he said.

Terry Barnes, who proposed the $5 fee to the government's commission of audit to save $750 million over four years complained on Twitter on Thursday about being "harassed by the left".

And then he said : "Based on reaction I'm coming to think bulk billing only for concessionals & families with kids may be more effective".

Mr Barnes said he was struck by the robust comment and criticism his proposal had met after first being revealed in News Corp's Sunday newspapers.

"From the reaction over the last week it is clear to me there is a willingness to debate this issue and look at the parameters of bulk billing," he said.  "I am not resiling from a co-payment at all," he said.  "Like any proposal it is there to be worked on," he said.

He said his plan could be fined tuned by exempting families and welfare recipients from the $5 charge.  Alternatively, he said instead of paying the charge for 12 visits it might only apply for six visits to the doctor a year (the average number of doctors visits per person per year).

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King yesterday demanded Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirm whether he supported Mr Glasson's views and "clarify if this is now government policy".

"The Prime Minister needs to explain how imposing a new GP tax is 'fair and affordable', as his candidate in Griffith claims," she said.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has joined the Australian Medical Association expressing concerns about the proposed $5 charge it calls a "tax".

"The RACGP rejects any proposal to reduce the rebate payable per general practice consultation through Medicare on the assumption that a co-payment will be introduced to cover a gap previously covered by Medicare," RACGP Vice-President, Associate Professor Frank Jones said .

"Implementing an additional barrier to accessing healthcare services at a general practice level will only further disadvantage both the general practice profession and patients alike," he said.


Stuck on a ship of (cold) fools

An editorial in The Australian newspaper

YOU have to feel a touch of sympathy for the global warming scientists, journalists and other hangers-on aboard the Russian ship stuck in impenetrable ice in Antarctica, the mission they so confidently embarked on to establish solid evidence of melting ice caps resulting from climate change embarrassingly abandoned because the ice is, in fact, so impossibly thick.

The aim of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Chris Turney of the University of NSW, was to prove the East Antarctic ice sheet is melting. Its website spoke alarmingly of "an increasing body of evidence" showing "melting and collapse from ocean warming". Instead, rescue ships and a helicopter, all belching substantial carbon emissions, have had to be mobilised to pluck those aboard the icebreaker MV Akademik Schokalskiy from their plight, stuck in what appears to be, ironically, record amounts of ice for this time of year.

In that lies a hard lesson for those who persistently exaggerate the impact of global warming. We believe in man-made climate change and are no less concerned than others about it. But the cause of sensible policy is ill-served by exaggeration; there is a need for recognition of the science, which shows there are variations in how climate is changing and what the impact is, or will be.

Professor Turney's expedition was supposed to repeat scientific investigations made by Douglas Mawson a century ago and to compare then and now. Not unreasonably, it has been pointed out Mawson's ship was never icebound. Sea ice has been steadily increasing, despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's gloomy forecasts. Had the expedition found the slightest evidence to confirm its expectation of melting ice caps and thin ice, a major new scare about the plight of the planet would have followed. As they are transferred to sanctuary aboard the icebreaker Aurora Australis, Professor Turney and his fellow evacuees must accept the embarrassing failure of their mission shows how uncertain the science of climate change really is. They cannot reasonably do otherwise.


The ‘Stolen’ Degeneration

Some twenty cases have now gone before the courts, but only one has produced a positive result for the plaintiff. The latest ruling specifically refutes claims that children of mixed race were for a period of time taken from their homes in the name of "assimilation"

Justice Janine Pritchard  in the WA Supreme Court on December 20 rejected claims that from 1958-79 there was any official program in WA to implement the so-called Stolen Generation policy. Her judgment dismissed damages claims by the Aboriginal Don and Sylvia Collard and seven of their children removed or made state wards.

She specifically dealt with a claim that the children were removed “pursuant to a policy of assimilation of aboriginal children.” She found the children were instead removed, mainly to Sister Kate’s in Perth, to safeguard their physical welfare.

This is the twentieth case in State, Federal and High Courts involving significant Stolen Generations claims, and the nineteenth to see the claims thrown out. Justice Pritchard found:

“The references to ‘assimilation’ in the evidence I have set out above are not sufficient to support a finding on the balance of probabilities that at the time of the wardships there was, within the Department of Native Welfare or the Child Welfare Department, the pursuit of a policy of assimilation of aboriginal people into white Australian society through the wardship of aboriginal children.

“More particularly, there was no evidence that the decisions to apply for each of the Children to be made wards were made in the pursuit of a policy of assimilation of aboriginal people into white Australian society. Rather, the evidence supports the finding that the decisions to apply for the Children to be made wards, and subsequent decisions at various times not to return them to the care of Don and Sylvia, were all made having regard to the welfare – albeit primarily the physical welfare – of the Children.”

Even counsel for the Collards conceded late in the case that ‘assimilation’ was not a motive for the removals, and during the case they only pushed the assimilationist line half-heartedly. The Commissioners for Native Welfare at the time were Stanley Middleton (1948-62) and Frank Gare (1962-79). Both emphatically rejected the idea of removals of half-castes for racist reasons.[i]

The only pieces of evidence Justice Pritchard found for any assimilation policy was a letter from a bishop in the Kimberley to the Native Welfare Minister in 1962, claiming the department policy was assimilation and urging that the policy (which he favoured) be pursued only with caution. The department replied that it was already being cautious about it.

There were also references to Sister Kate’s Home assisting the assimilation process, e.g. because the part-colored children were fully incorporated into white, aged-based classes at the nearby state school. But in the Collard case, the authorities remained keen to re-unite the family, subject to the Collard parents improving their living conditions and lifestyle.

In his Stolen Generation apology of 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd emphasised that ‘forced removal’ of Aboriginal children was happening ‘as late as the early 1970s’. He said, “The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.”

The Pritchard judgment, in respect of post-war WA at least, shows that Rudd’s claims are nonsense. She outlines in scores of pages of detail, how WA authorities and public servants did their best to procure the physical welfare of the vulnerable Collard children. She details how WA officialdom from the late 1950s gave increasing weight to children’s emotional well-being, once the importance of parental rather than institutional care was recognized.

She acknowledges that in those times the State had different views and knowledge about children’s best interests compared with today. She notes that in 1958 there was not a single tertiary course in social work in the State, and only one social worker in the entire WA Child Welfare Department.

Justice Pritchard’s findings mirror those of Justice Maurice O’Loughlin  in the Cubillo-Gunner case in the NT Supreme Court on August 11, 2000. He rejected that there had been in the NT any “wide-spread, indiscriminate removals of part Aboriginal children” when Lorna Cubillo and Peter Gunner were removed for welfare reasons in 1947 and 1956 respectively. Nor was there any policy to ‘breed out’ half-castes (one element of the Stolen Generation hypothesis first promulgated in 1981 by then ANU post-graduate student Peter Read in a 21-page polemical pamphlet he claimed to have written on a single day).

In SA, the Trevorrow case involved an unlawful removal of Bruce Trevorrow as an ailing one-year-old from his parents in early 1958. The removal was done by a well-meaning but inexperienced Aboriginal welfare worker, contrary to official policy. Trevorrow  was adopted by a caring white couple but his life became dysfunctional. He won $775,000 damages in  2007-08. This remains the only successful “Stolen Generation” case, although it in fact demonstrated that   SA government policy was against any racial removals of half-castes, rogue welfare workers notwithstanding.

In Victoria, the Aborigines Welfare Board from 1957 had no power to remove Aboriginal children, and six government-sponsored reports from 1996-2003 failed to find any evidence of policies for half-caste removals (contrary to Rudd’s later assertion). Nor could these six inquiries locate any individuals who fitted the bill as ‘stolen’.[ii]

Moving north, removals in NSW from 1912-68 totalled 2600, of whom two-thirds were simply teenagers boarded out for apprenticeships, as occurred with white children. The other third were largely orphans, neglected, destitute, in moral danger or abused.[iii]

In Queensland from 1908-71, only 249 Aboriginal children were officially removed from their parents and put in institutions, reserves, and missions. That is, about four per year, for all reasons.[iv]

In the WA case, Justice Pritchard found that welfare workers acted reasonably in separating the Collard  children from their parents. The following examples give some of the picture:

# The five-month-old baby Ellen in March 1958 was in hospital from “malnutrition and lack of proper care” and had lost 1lb of her 6lb 3oz birth weight. Officials said they were unwilling to return her to a 4×4 metre tin humpy with dirt floor, with only two or three filthy beds for two adults and six children, and no power, running water or sanitation.

#  One daughter recalled that in the humpy,   the parents slept in the double bed with daughters Glenys, Eva and Beverley. Sons Donald, Darryl and Bill shared the single bed and Wesley slept in a pram by the double bed. When the double bed was too crowded, Beverley would sleep in the boys’ bed. A visiting welfare officer reported that when he visited the humpy, there was no food in it, although the Collards said they acquired food as needed. At Sister Kate’s, the children were treated for trachoma, vermin and ringworm.

# An official file note from 11 January 1968,  included:

“On the 8-1-68 I saw Mrs Sylvia Rachael Collard in Narrogin. She told me that a few days before her husband had given her a severe thrashing, and had beaten her up so much that she had spent three days in the Pingelly Hospital. She stated that this sort of thing had now been going on for 20 years or so, and the time had now come when she was scared to go back to him…”

# Don had nine convictions between 1955 and 1973 for drunkenness, one for assault, one for drunken driving while under suspension, one for disorderly conduct (yelling, fighting and screaming with his wife), one for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, one for stealing and receiving, and one for driving under suspension. Sylvia had three convictions including one for drunkenness.

As an illustration of cognitive dissonance, while concerned people condemn the WA welfare fieldworkers and policies of half a century ago for insensitivity, today’s removal situation is seriously worse.

Despite Rudd’s 2008 demand that “the injustices of the past”, i.e. forced removals, ‘never never happen again’, about one in 19 Aboriginal children nationally are removed and in care. All-up, there were 12,385 Aboriginal children removed and in care in 2010–11. Moreover, nearly a third are in care with non-Aboriginal carers.[v]

In Victoria in 2011-12, nearly one in ten Aboriginal children were removed from their families, at least temporarily.[vi]


Absurd judgment: 87 year old man dies – time for compo

A WOMAN has won the right to a war widow’s pension by proving her late husband’s death was linked to the excessive salt-eating habit he developed as a serviceman.

After serving in the tropics during World War II, Queensland cane cutter and farmer Clement Hutton loaded all his food – from apples to porridge and rice – with salt.

His widow Shirley Hutton, 83, of Maroochy River on the Sunshine Coast, told the Administrative Appeal Tribunal her husband, who she married in 1951, developed his taste for salt during his Army service.

Mr Hutton was diagnosed with hypertension in 1997 and died after a stroke in July 2012 aged 87.

Mrs Hutton claimed her husband’s stroke was linked to his hypertension which was linked to his excessive salt intake which began during his war service.

While the death of a loved one must always be traumatic it is hard to understand why the widow of a 87 year old man should be treated equally with those women whose husbands actually died during the war, or who bore the stress of having a husband fighting in the war. I wouldn’t have thought that 87 would be an unusually young age for a WWII veteran to have died.


1 comment:

Paul said...

This co-payment thing has been raised before, and the arguments being made are exactly the same as the last time it came up. No matter how you swing it, if you exempt one group, another will claim discrimination and so on and so forth. Its an un-winnable argument. Health care is a financial sinkhole, be it Private or Public.