Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Union `corruption and thuggery' to be laid bare in controversial commissioner Dyson Heydon's report

THUGGERY and corruption within elements of the CFMEU is expected to be laid bare tomorrow by a royal commission that looks set to recommend laws be strengthened and key officials slapped with criminal charges.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon's, lengthy, final report into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was obtained by the Turnbull Government yesterday, and was expected to reveal serious failings, criminal activity and intimidation.

The report, which will be given to the states today and released by the Government on Wednesday, could include recommendations on union donation and governance reforms, forcing new levels of transparency for the first time.

It is anticipated Commissioner Heydon will also recommend stronger penalties or strengthened laws for unions that engage in secondary boycotts, whereby some unions refuse to do business or perform services for a firm that is engaging with a company with which it is in dispute.

Senior Government ministers have told The Courier-Mail that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would be unwise to describe the royal commission as a witch hunt because of separate judgment by Justice Chris Jessup this month.

On December 2, the CFMEU and its Victorian/Tasmanian branch president were penalised $245,000 in the Federal Court for trying to coerce a Melbourne-based scaffolding company to hire a CFMEU shop steward.

During the penalty hearing, Justice Jessup questioned, "Has there ever been a worse recidivist (CFMEU) in the history of the common law?''


A government hospital system with three times more bureaucrats than doctors

A review of South Australia's hospital system needs to examine the number of bureaucrats after documents show administrators outnumber doctors, Family First MP Robert Brokenshire has said.

Mr Brokenshire called for an independent review after obtaining the data under Freedom of Information which showed administrators now outnumbered doctors by three to one.

The number of administrators has jumped by more than 1,600 to 13,477 in the past 10 years compared to the number of salaried doctors which rose to 3,897.

The documents also showed the number of executives increased to 113 from 84 - 10 years ago.

Mr Brokenshire said the disparity needed to be examined. "So I'm calling for an independent audit to actually have a look at and put a public report out to say whether or not, all these bureaucratic positions are required at a time when we have unprecedented pressures in our hospitals that our doctors and nurses are trying to cope with," he said.

SA Health said since 2010 there had been a more than 10 per cent reduction in executives working in SA Health and that in May it announced cuts to 25 executive roles and 425 staff from head office.

"South Australia has more doctors and nurses per capita than the national Australian average and there are only two other states that have a lower ratio of administrative and clerical staff per capita than South Australia," the statement read.

"The vast majority of SA Health staff are based on the frontline in local health networks or in roles directly supporting frontline staff."


Pharmaceutical shenanigans

Chemists squealing at a threat to their profits

HUNDREDS of thousands of consumers could miss out on a $1 per script medicine discount from New Year's Day as a war erupts in the pharmacy profession.

From January 1, chemists will be allowed for the first time to discount the price the patient pays for prescription medicines subsidised by the government.

The price a pensioner pays for prescriptions will rise to $6.20 in line with inflation in January 1 but chemists will be able to sell the medicine for just $5.20 per script.

The price of a subsidised script will rise to $38.30 for general consumers but chemists will be able to sell them the medicine for just $37.30.

In the past government rules have prevented pharmacists discounting the patient copayment that applied to subsidised prescription medicine. But that changed under a new five year pharmacy agreement signed earlier this year, aimed at increasing competition in the industry.

Mega discount chain Chemist Warehouse has already pledged to pass on the discount to all its customers from January 1.

But the Pharmacy Guild of Australia which represents 3,000 of the nation's pharmacy owners is opposed to the discount.

This is because chemists who pass on the discount will lose the money.  "We have a clear position: we oppose it." Pharmacy Guild President George Tambassis told a conference in September.

He said pharmacies that were advertising they would pass on cheaper scripts were doing "the wrong thing".  "That's the trouble with this profession, there is always one or two who will do the wrong thing," Mr Tambassis said.

The measure will save the government $373 million over four years because when patients spend less on their medicines it takes them longer to reach the PBS safety net.

When they reach the safety net medicines become free for pensioners and the price drops to $6.10 for general patients.

The Pharmacy Guild says concessional patients who choose to receive a full $1 discount will need to fill an additional 11 prescriptions during the year to reach their Safety Net and access free medicines.

They will reach their Safety Net later in the year and be on the Safety Net for a shorter length of time the Guild says in a newsletter on its website.

However, even though patients will take longer to reach the safety net they won't be worse off because their medicines will be cheaper all year round if they use a chemist that passes on the discount.

"Already, we have seen one large pharmacy discounter spruiking the $1 discount in the public arena without mentioning its Safety Net impact on concessional patients," a spokesman for the Guild Greg Turnbull says in the Guild's Forefront newsletter.

"This has the potential for patients to think they are benefiting when they are actually no better off over a 12 month period," he says.

Consumers who want the discount should shop around to find a chemist who is passing it on.


Indonesia vows new age with better ties with Australia

Australia and Indonesia are poised for significantly closer military, security and economic ties as Jakarta's ambassador to Canberra drew a line under two years of tension by declaring the critical relationship to be back on track.

Nadjib Riphat Kesoema told The Australian that Malcolm Turnbull's visit to Jakarta last month for talks with President Joko Widodo created an atmosphere of hope and optimism in the relationship between the two nations. "In just a few hours the two leaders built a very good relationship," Mr Nadjib said.  "It is full of expectations for the future."

The leaders' meeting was a landmark in the relationship -between the nations, he said.

Mr Nadjib was recalled from Canberra in late 2013 for several months after it was revealed an Australian agency had in the past spied on then president -Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his family. Tony Abbott, who was prime minister at the time of the revelations, did not explain nor apologise.

In August, the ambassador used an essay published in The Australian to call for an intensification of relationship-building and for both sides to put aside "megaphone diplomacy". Mr Nadjib's essay came as Jakarta and Canberra tried to reset the relationship after the tensions over the spying allegations, people smuggling, policies to stop asylum-seekers boats and then the execution of drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

In September, Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott as prime minister.

The Turnbull-Joko meeting that followed in Jakarta was "a special juncture" that set that course to a future together, Mr Nadjib said. "It was not just dry policy," he added.

Leaders could impose their personalities on international -relationships and Mr Turnbull's individual style gave special -colour and atmosphere to that linking Australia and Indonesia, Mr Nadjib said. "With the style of the Prime Minister and his relationship with my President, it's No 1 - it's very important for us," he said.

Mr Nadjib said the two leaders set the scene for a much closer -relationship at all levels, "economy to economy, people to -people, security to security and military to military".

Subsequent meetings of ministers responsible for foreign -affairs, defence and national -security in Sydney and Jakarta had built on that relationship, bringing the broad strategic agreements into practical action.

People smuggling was still an issue for both countries with about 13,000 asylum-seekers in Indonesia who did not want to stay there. "They want to go maybe to Australia or to somewhere else," Mr Nadjib said.   There would be more talks under the Bali process next year, he said, and they would be -co-hosted by Australia.

Mr Nadjib said Mr Joko had stressed to Mr Turnbull that -Indonesia practised Islam in a very moderate and tolerant way. "Tolerant Islam is very compatible with democracy," Mr Nadjib said.  "That's why we have developed an atmosphere of tolerance in Indonesia and we try to bring all people, whatever religion they have, together in a dialogue."

Both nations were victims of radicalisation and extremism and the exchange of intelligence to deal with terrorism was very -important, he said.

Mr Nadjib said Indonesia had a very strong relationship with China, especially through economic links, but it shared with -Australia concerns about developments in the South China Sea.

Indonesia's foreign policy was "free and active", and did not stop Jakarta having a close relationship with Beijing and Canberra.

"These are international sea lanes," he said. "We hope that everybody is restrained in their actions. Like Australia, we are not claimants but we want a peaceful South China Sea. We are friends with everybody."

Mr Nadjib said Australia and Indonesia already had very good economic relations and he would like to see that develop to benefit the people of both countries. Indonesia wanted to increase its exports to Australia, especially manufactured goods, agricultural produce and tropical fruit and palm oil.  "We would like to export more machinery to Australia," he said.

Indonesia could also benefit from Australia's advanced defence industry. "We can learn a lot from you," he said. "And you have modern defence equipment. We would like very much to have the opportunity to exchange experience and we send our officers to your military training schools here."

Australian officers could learn, too, from the grassroots style of the Indonesian military, Mr -Nadjib said. "They are born from the people itself to defend the freedom of the country," he said.

Despite being very close geographically, there were major cultural and other differences between Indonesia and Australia and misunderstandings could arise if there were not sufficient dialogue.  "We have to have good interaction, to put aside all the misunderstandings that we have," Mr Nadjib said.


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