Monday, July 30, 2007

Medicare being crippled

Below is an article from The Age about our the private health subsidy that is now costing us 6 billion a year.

The likes of Tony Abbot [Health Minister] and John Howard should be in public office if they think the wants of big business and this includes health insurers, should influence health funding. Go back to practicing the law and let people with compassion for the poorer members of our society run the government. Governing is not about making surpluses and pandering to big business. It is about providing a fair go for the lower paid members of our society.

So have a read or go to the Article here.


The $6 billion "corporate welfare" paid to subsidise private health insurance each year is putting Medicare under threat, a former top bureaucrat says.

A summit in Canberra on Monday heard that major health system reform was necessary to make sure all Australians had access to affordable health care.

Almost half of the population had missed out on health services they needed because they could not afford them, while another 15 per cent suffered financial pressure after paying for health care, figures presented at the National Health Reform Summit showed.

Centre for Policy Development chair John Menadue said government subsidies for private health insurance (PHI) were approaching $6 billion a year, including $4.8 billion for the private health insurance rebate, lost tax from the Medicare levy exemption and TV advertising.

"The trend to a two-tier health system in Australia is a serious threat," Mr Menadue, a former head of three government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet under Gough Whitlam, said.

"When the government subsidises wealthy people in PHI to jump the queue, we are on the way to crippling Medicare.

"(Health Minister) Tony Abbott says that the Howard government is the best friend Medicare ever had. Words are one thing. Actions tell a different and alarming story."

Mr Menadue said the money would be better spent directly on mental, indigenous, preventative or dental health.

"Administration of the $6 billion annual subsidy to PHI should be transferred to Treasury, who would quickly recognise it for what it is - corporate welfare and not a health program," he said.

More than 40 health groups - including peak bodies for GPs, rural doctors, nurses and physiotherapists - are attending the meeting to push the government to reform the health system.

Mr Abbott was originally listed as speaking at the forum but declined to attend.

Mr Menadue said the health minister and his predecessors had been too timid to undertake a major redesign of the health system.

He said the government should set up a national independent authority to drive health reform, and call a public inquiry into the health system.

"Tony Abbott speaks of health as a 'dog's breakfast', but has made no serious effort to fix the mess," he said.

"Our health leaders lack the will for health reform because they are strongly influenced by the vested interests that abound in health."

Melbourne's Health Issues Centre CEO Centre Tony McBride told the forum that community consultations held across four states had found cost prevented 45 per cent of people accessing essential health care in the past 12 months.

Another 15 per cent had experienced financial hardship as a result of paying for care.

"Now it's not a representative sample, but even so these are very, very high figures, figures that I think would be concerning any health minister," Mr McBride told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

The private insurance subsidies meant wealthier Australians could access services such as dental care, but those who could least afford to pay for dentistry were getting nothing, he said.

Mr McBride added that many surveys showed people were willing to pay more for health care if the service was of good quality and equitable.

"So I think there are some good grounds for increasing the amount of money we give," he said.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Steiner in our state schools

Yep there is Steiner education going on in our state school system. I have known about this for some time. Someone I knew did the course and became a Steiner teacher.
I first met them back in the 1970s and they were off with the fairies quite literally. Well they are still off and have brought their mad ideas to main stream schooling.

Rudolf Steiner had some very strange ideas, including thinking white people were more intelligent than black, and that there are fairies.

I used to see an image of a Germanic boy scout [Grown up] with hairy knobbly knees singing mad tunes and talking rubbish.

If you want to hear more about Steiner being taught in our Victorian State school system try the ABC Religion report.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A couple of quickies

Our Autorney General Philip says that the Tampa affair, which cause such a stink a few years back wasn't illegal and this was confirmed by the High court. May I remind the minister that Hitler made sure that all his deeds were legal. It ain't hard to make your actions legal when you are the government. It doesn't make it morally o.k.

John Howard is looking old and worn out. And now we have the biography to confirm many of our suspicions about the power behind the man. Jannette. Maybe he should stop listening to her and take a long holiday. I suspect that not only will the coalition be beaten at the next election and thus put them in the political wilderness but that John Howard may loose his seat too. I suppose that isn't too bad a thing. It saves us from having a bi-election soon after the general election.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's raining where is all the water going?

Melbourne is awash with rain. With all the hard surfaces, roofs,
pavements, roads etc. it all runs off into the drainage system pretty
efficiently. From there it travels to the streams and rivers, taking
it to the bay [ocean].

Once it goes into the ocean it becomes salty and undrinkable.
But not to worry in a few years time the Brack's
government will be desalinating it and pumping it back to the city.

The big draw back to this system is it will cost billions of dollars
and double the price of water. Why have the government told us this is
the best/only way to deal with our water problems?

There must be a reliable reasonably priced low tech way of saving our
own rainwater, before it goes into the bay. Creeks and rivers are
traditional sources of water for reservoirs. Surely we can utilise our
rainwater run off and avoid the horrendous expense of a desalination
plant with it's energy, environmental safe guards, and pumping requirements.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Middle East

Here is an extract of a speech given by a former top CIA officer about the wests involvement in the middle east.
He says at one point that,

"We in the West are fighting an enemy we have woefully chosen to misunderstand and to whom we are losing hands down and on every front,"

He goes on to say,

"the US and its allies continually became involved in Middle East wars because of their reliance on Arab oil supplies and had little other interest in the region."

When the Iraq war started and I marched with many others here in Melbourne, we knew that oil was at the bottom of this conflict. And now at last it is coming out from senior cabinet ministers [Australia's Defence Minister Brendan Nelson] that the oil of the middle east is all important.
Wise up this ain't no practice run we have to find alternative types of energy now and make our planet safer, cleaner, and sustainable.


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Premier Water Wallies

Here is an article by Kenneth Davidson in The Age. I couldn't of put it so well.

Premiers need to stop tilting at windmills and back effective water plans

July 5, 2007
Page 1 of 2 | Single page

Recycled water, not desalination, is an answer to our shortages, writes Kenneth Davidson.

MELBURNIANS are going to pay a heavy price for their reluctance to drink recycled water. It beats me: the same people who would turn up their nose at recycled water in their home town willingly travel to London and other European cities where the water that comes out of the taps in their expensive hotel rooms includes recycled sewage.

The only reasons the Labor governments of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have foreshadowed expenditure of some $5.3 billion on desalination plants are their irrational fear that the existing water storages will dry up completely and their belief that Toowoomba's reaction to the 2006 referendum on recycling — an overwhelming victory for those opposed, despite bipartisan support for the move — reflects the attitude of the population at large.

It is possible that existing storages could run dry if drought persists and we insist on wasting potable water. But only 20 per cent of water consumption needs to be potable: the water we use to drink, cook and wash in. The other 80 per cent — which we use in the laundry, to flush toilets, water the garden and wash the car — doesn't.

The rainfall on greater Melbourne is seven times our present wasteful consumption in an average year and three times average consumption in the drought conditions experienced recently.

If we understand both these points, it becomes clear that there isn't a shortage of water but a problem with how we use it. This flies in the face of the crazy policies being foisted on the electorate by state premiers.

By using a judicious system of taxes and subsidies, households and businesses can be persuaded to recycle grey water, supplemented by tanks to harvest rainwater. Harvesting minimises stormwater run-off, which generates most of the pollution in the Yarra and Port Phillip.

Black water from toilet flushing can be recycled for the watering of parks, street trees and sports fields through the introduction of sewer mines, built on sewer mains around the city. Production of black water can be avoided by the introduction of dry composting toilets, which are now being installed in northern Europe.

If climate change led to existing water storages drying up despite an 80 per cent cut in consumption of reticulated potable water, as per the above reforms, a desalination plant would not save Victoria. The remnant population would be in retreat past Tasmania to the poles.

It is more likely that global warming will be associated with extreme weather events, including violent storms and flooding such as that seen in Gippsland and Newcastle recently. According to Melbourne Water chief executive Rob Skinner, the desalination plant could be forced to shut down within 10 years if Melbourne's water storages fill. Is Victoria so profligate that it can write off $3.1 billion in spending on infrastructure that produces water at a cost six to seven times that from existing storages?

Then there are the environmental costs. According to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the combined consumption of electricity to operate the desal plant and pump water from Wonthaggi to Melbourne will generate 946,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually if the electricity comes from brown coal. This is equivalent to putting another 240,000 cars on Melbourne's roads.

Victoria's baseload generating capacity is already up against supply constraints during peak demand, thanks to the proliferation of air-conditioners in poorly designed and insulated houses permitted by bad planning regulations.

The Bracks Government sidesteps the environmental issue, claiming the desal plant will be carbon-neutral because the Government will offset its emissions by building wind farms. According to the ACF, to balance the emissions would require an additional 150 turbines — doubling the state's existing wind farm capacity.

If Australia is to meet its share of global greenhouse gas targets by 2050 (to prevent warming of 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels and avoid the tipping point where warming becomes uncontrollable), it will have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent. Those who think that business-as-usual growth can be sustained by carbon offsets are living in a dream world or have no concern for the future.

What is needed is a batsqueak of political courage to confront the electorate with the real choices. The Labor premiers could do worse than join Kevin Rudd, who is proposing a $500 subsidy for households to install water tanks or grey-water recycling.

It's not enough, but at least it is not taking us backwards like Steve Bracks, who has promised to overhaul Victoria's green building rules by scrapping the requirement for either tanks or solar panels in new homes.

Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Howard is misdirected

John Howards attempt at making changes to the indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Is both misdirected and dangerous.

Misdirected because he has come to it after 10 years in power during which he has not done very much to help the aboriginal community. He stopped the reconciliation process, he has ignored the fundamental areas of concern, and now wants us all to focus on these failing areas in aboriginal life. I don't buy the idea that it is better late than never. If he had come up with a 10-20 year plan at the beginning of his term as prime minister, the problems he now describes as "Our cyclone Katrina" would of been identified and a programme of rebuilding would be in-acted.

Dangerous, because if this heavy handed approach goes wrong, which I think is quite likely. Then the matter becomes even worse. It will be very hard to garner public support for billions of dollars for a second or third wave of assistance.

Aboriginal people cannot be treated like a social experiment that can be re-adjusted by our interventions that come without consultation or consent. So the next time Mr Howard wants to divert our attentions from a popular leader of the opposition, lets hope he finds a different type of distraction, maybe drug abuse in AFL football stars???


Post Script: Here is an article about this subject from The Age newspaper.

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