Friday, October 02, 2015

Conservatives create Australia's first Indigenous government minister

How's that for racism?  The Left have never done as much.  But Wyatt is only indigenous according to the peculiar Hitlerite convention (enforced by Australia's Left) that "one drop" of indigenous blood makes you Aboriginal.  You can see from the pic how black he is not -- JR

Ken Wyatt gave his inaugural speech to parliament in 2010 wrapped in a kangaroo skin coat that was given to him by elders of the Noongar people, the traditional occupants of south-west Western Australia.

The coat, Wyatt explained, was presented to him as a symbol of his heritage, and a reminder to take his culture and experiences with him in his new endeavour.

Wyatt made history in 2010 as the first Indigenous person elected to the House of Representatives. On Wednesday, he broke new ground again, becoming the first person with Indigenous heritage to be sworn in as a minister.

He will take on the assistant health portfolio, a role his 15-year career in public health has prepared him well for.

Heeding the advice of the Noongar elders, Wyatt has kept his culture close during this parliamentary career, fighting for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people, and for non-discrimination of all Australians.

But when it comes to public process on eradicating racism, Wyatt is pragmatic.

The Racial Discrimination act “hasn’t changed people’s attitudes towards who they discriminate against”, he said.

Despite public outcry over the watering down of the act, and the level of support AFL player Adam Goodes received after being booed by fans, there simply is not the appetite for adding racial non-discrimination clauses to the constitution, he argued.

“Australia’s not ready for that,” Wyatt told Guardian Australia.

Proposals to reform the constitution to recognise Australia’s first peoples kick-started the debate on whether the nation’s founding document should include broader non-discrimination clauses.

Those clauses are “highly unlikely to be supported”, said Wyatt, who headed a parliamentary committee into constitutional recognition. “That’s one that a tough decision has to be made.”

He said that adding anti-discrimination clauses to the constitution would act as a de facto bill of rights, and that the public had still not come to grips with that concept.

“If there was a common accord, say at the end of a decade, where we could put together a set of words that would be enshrined in a constitution, that would safeguard every person based on a non-discriminatory factor, then I don’t have an issue with that. But at the moment, we’ve not had the mature debate that’s needed,” the new assistant minister said.


Australia signs up to some dubious goals

You wouldn’t want to read the UN’s  69 "Sustainable Development Goals" Julie Bishop has just signed Australia up to and if you had, you would be white with rage.

I don’t want to scare you too much but one of the many “targets” Australia has just agreed to is  to “... fully operationalise the Green Climate Fund through its capitalisation as soon as possible”.

Or how about this one? “To mobilise additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources to assist developing countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability through coordinated policies aimed at fostering debt financing, debt relief and debt restructuring, as appropriate, and address the external debt of highly indebted poor countries to reduce debt distress.” That’s gobbledegook for debt forgiveness if it’s big enough.

Gender equality gets a guernsey of course and there’s plenty about global warming, rising sea levels, our doomed Barrier Reef and drowning polar bears and there is a detailed between-the-lines explanation of how a universal carbon tax will finance all 69 objectives... but it has to be a universal Carbon tax. All countries must agree! Hmmm.


Turnbull faces 'war' over Senate reform

But it will happen.  It is in the interests of both the Liberals and the ALP to get rid of the ratbag minority in the Senate -- JR

THE Turnbull government could face "war" in the Senate if it goes ahead with voting reform, crossbenchers warn.

IF the government can't get support from Labor or the Greens, it will need six out of eight crossbench votes to pass legislation through the Senate.

There are about $75 billion worth of proposed budget savings measures yet to pass parliament.

Special Minister of State Mal Brough, who took on responsibility for electoral reform in Monday's reshuffle, says one of his priorities will be to look at changing the way in which senators are elected.

In 2014, a bipartisan committee recommended voters be allowed to mark preferences above the line on Senate ballot papers or not to have to number all the boxes below the line.

This would stop micro-parties gaming the system through sophisticated preference-swap deals, which led to some crossbench senators being elected with less than one per cent of the primary vote.

"If this proceeds to legislation as implemented, it'll be war," Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm told ABC television on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his new team wanted to be "friends" with the crossbench, but voting reform was the best way to pick a fight.

Senator Leyonhjelm said he had understood the government was no longer interested in, and had no time to implement, voting reform prior to the next election.

Retaliatory action could include voting against government bills and being uncooperative on procedural matters.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon will offer Mr Brough his cooperation in changing the system.

Group voting tickets should be abolished and replaced with a minimum three or six preferences allocated above the line or a minimum of 12 preferences cast below the line on the Senate ballot paper. "That gets rid of the backroom deals," he said.

Palmer United Party founder Clive Palmer, who has one senator, said rigging the system would "destroy real democracy".


Give the AMA a bypass and privatise public hospitals

The Australian Medical Association’s pre-emptive political strike on the Medicare services review shows that some members of the medical profession believe only the doctor’s union should make health policy in this country.

Given the evident sense of entitlement, and the self-serving belief that no savings can be made from the health system, it beggars belief some are suggesting taxes should be raised principally to feed the beast that is Medicare.

Many budget experts are calling for a range of tax increases to close the fiscal gap between government revenue and expenditure. But before allowing the nation to be dragged over the cliff of higher tax and spend policies, we should stop, think and understand how acting on this advice would be the antithesis of true economic reform.

The major tax proposals on the table are a 50 per cent GST hike or a proportionate rise in income tax to pay for the rising cost of state health systems.

The problem in health is reckless spending, not a revenue shortfall. This is clearly demonstrated by the ever-increasing amount of taxpayer money absorbed by public hospitals. In 2003-04, combined federal, state and territory funding for public hospitals totalled $22 billion. By 2012-13, this had increased to almost $40bn, with real expenditure having grown at a rate much higher than inflation and economic growth.

Demand for hospital services is increasing in an ageing society, but there is little evidence that productivity improvements have enabled the community to receive more hospital care in return for additional funding. The 2013 Queensland Commission of Audit found that while expenditure on public hospitals in the state had increased by 43 per cent across the previous five years, activity had increased by less than half — just 17 per cent.

This is hardly surprising: public hospitals remain one of the few government utilities that have been untouched by the market-based reform agenda initiated under the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980s.

Like all cosseted public sector industries, public hospitals are inherently inefficient because they are insulated against private sector forces of competition and financial accountability that drives innovation and reduces costs in other sectors of the economy. Analysis by the Productivity Commission has suggested there is a 20 per cent cost difference between the least efficient and more efficient public hospitals, which represents a waste of many billions of dollars across the sector.

Yet this doesn’t mean better performing hospitals are truly ­efficient.

The sweetheart industrial deals struck between state governments and public sector health unions account for the high costs and inefficiency across the entire system. The centralised industrial agreements negotiated by state health departments fix rigid, statewide employment terms and conditions for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, and include expensive and outdated work practices that prevent the delivery of services more cost-effectively.

Health consumes one-quarter of total state government expenditure, and public hospitals account for about two-thirds of state health spending. The cost of clinical ser­vices represents about 70 per cent of total hospital budgets.

Higher taxes to underwrite inefficient public services is not economic reform. Tax rises to fund state health systems are also a stopgap because, if present growth in the cost of public hospital care continues, health will consume the entire budgets of the states and territories in coming decades.

What state governments should be doing is addressing the structural problems in their health systems by outsourcing the provision of public hospital care to more efficient private providers. For example, the West Australian government has outsourced the operation of the new Midlands public hospital to a private operator, which will save $1.3bn across the life of the $5bn contract compared with the estimated cost of the state running the hospital.

Public hospital reform needs to become a national policy priority just as reform of the energy sector, the telecommunications industry, and ports were in earlier times. Privatisation maybe a dirty word in health, but the alternative is bankrupt state governments.

The best thing the Turnbull government can do is to use the review of federalism and mooted changes to federal financial relations to drive health reform.

Ending all specific purpose payments for health, and instead giving the states one pot of money to fund all responsibilities, would encourage state governments to make more rational decisions about how best to use scarce public resources amid competing priorities — including the operation of public hospitals.

A federalism reform package of this kind would prepare the way for return of income tax powers to the states. State governments that fail to reform their health systems should be made accountable to the voters who are forced to hand over a higher proportion of their incomes to prop up inefficient public hospitals.


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