Browsing articles in "Health"
Tuesday 28th June 2016 - 6:10 pm
Comments Off on Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

Government plans a $1.1 billion crackdown on welfare

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is aiming to save $1.1 billion a year, by targeting  “leakage, waste and abuse” in the welfare system.


However the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who announced this crackdown today, said people who are entitled to welfare payments would continue to get them.


He was announcing the Coalition’s financial targets, for the three years following the July 2 election.


However the Greens ridiculed Mr Morrison’s statement, saying he was urging that Australia’s social security system be automated and upgraded even though its staff cannot even answer their  phone  calls.


Senator Rachel Siewert – the Greens spokesperson on Community Services – said Mr Morrison is   advocating that Australia’s social security system be “automated and upgraded” when his staff cannot even answer their phones.


“After 22 million missed calls last year amongst other issues, there are many Australian’s accessing income support of some form, be it Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Newstart, Carers Allowance, who feel extremely frustrated,” Senator Siewert said.


“The missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

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Monday 27th June 2016 - 9:17 am
Comments Off on PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

PM’s speech: the lustre and bluster

by Alan Thornhill





Malcolm Turnbull’s policy speech yesterday was a polished performance.


He managed to suggest, for example, that something very like the Brexit disaster could well sink Australia, too, if we don’t vote the right way on July 2.


Without actually saying so.


So is there a danger, in his message that might not be immediately apparent?




Is the lustre, of his carefully crafted message, for example, brighter than its bluster?


The Prime Minister assured voters, constantly, throughout his speech, that his Coalition has a plan to deal with all eventualities, that might arise over the next three years.


Without saying, too specifically, what it was


He also boasted that some 300,000 new jobs had been created, on his government’s watch.


Without mentioning that most of them are part time positions, with pay rates that don’t cover grocery bills


This has left many Australians, particularly the young and the old, without a place in Australia’s modern work-force


So it might well be worth looking again at just what the Turnbull forces are planning to do, as well as what Mr Turnbull, himself, is actually saying.


Tax cuts, both for Australians on high incomes – and the big corporates – are at the heart of his plan.


It may well be worth remembering, at this point, that much of the vote for Britain’s exit, from the EU, came from poor areas, in Britain’s north.


That is  from the very people who have suffered most, over the years, from the austerity that came with Thatcherism, and its successors.


Eminent economists, like America’s Paul Krugman are not impressed by arguments that rising wealth for the rich will produce more jobs for the poor.


Krugman says that’s like relying on “the austerity fairy” to overcome unemployment.


However that argument still appeals, even if its strongest appeal is to those who benefit most from it.

Sunday 26th June 2016 - 3:23 pm
Comments Off on PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

PM urges Australians to vote for “stability”

by Alan Thornhill

Malcolm Turnbull says:  “the shockwaves in the past 48 hours from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy.”

Delivering his policy speech in Sydney for the July 2 elections, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need for stable majority government, experienced economic leadership and a national economic plan.

An edited copy of  his 4,000 word speech is reproduced below.

After praising senior Liberals who attended the launch, Mr Turnbull said Australia needs a national economic plan  which “recognises the nature of our times – both the opportunities and challenges – and gives us the resilience we need to succeed.”

“Only the Liberal National Coalition can deliver that plan, that security, that leadership,” he added.

“Everything we seek to achieve, all of our hopes, our dreams depend on strong economic growth, “ Mr Turnbull said.

In a strong economy, business is  confident and  prepared to risk investing, expanding and hiring.”

Mr Turnbull said:  “Our business tax cuts encourage small and medium businesses to do just that.

“A strong economy means a mum whose kids are now at school and wants to work a few more days, or work full time, will have plenty of opportunities to do so,” Mr Turnbull said.

“And our childcare reforms will make it easier for her to do so too,” he added.

“It means that young men and women who have left school and are looking for a job will find an employer who is hiring and is happy to give them a start.”

“Our PaTH program with job training and internships will provide additional support to youth employment,”Mr Turnbull added.

A strong economy means we can fund our Innovation and Science Agenda to ensure our kids learn the digital skills of the 21st century, our research is commercialised to create jobs here at home and investors support start-up companies.

A strong economy means that senior Australians know their children will be in good jobs, their investments will deliver better returns and that Government will have growing revenues to support their pensions and health care.

It means that the farmer is getting much better prices for his cattle and can afford to hire a local contractor to replace his fences, clean out a dam or build a new hay shed.

It means the cafe, the restaurant, the hotel has more tourists and they hire more staff to cater for them.

All thanks to our export trade deals.

A strong economy means that builders will be hard at work on new homes and tradesmen will have more jobs.

It means that a manufacturer has more export orders, can buy more equipment, hire more workers and expand their business.

A stronger economy means we can fund over $50 billion in 21st century road, rail and other infrastructure including the Western Sydney Airport and the 39,000 jobs it will create.

“A stronger economy means we can afford to fund world-class education and health services, including Medicare, without weighing down our children and grandchildren with more debt and deficits,” Mr Turnbull said.

A strong economy means we can meet and beat our international obligations  to address climate change and do so without massive hikes in electricity prices as Labor would do.

“We have a national economic plan because the prosperity and security of 24 million Australians depend on it,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said success in the 21st Century cannot be taken for granted.

“Always expect the unexpected.”

“We will need to renegotiate vital trade deals with Europe and Britain,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We concluded five in the last three years – Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“In six years Labor concluded none,” he said.

“We have carefully considered what we need to do to succeed, to make the transition from an economy fired up by a once in a century mining construction boom to one that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins, and keeps on winning.”

“So there is a clear cut choice at this election,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We present our fellow Australians with a national economic plan every element of which supports more investment, stronger economic growth and more jobs.

“Our plan invests $1.1 billion to promote leading-edge innovation in our industries and to prepare our children for the jobs of the future.”

Our plan promotes export trade deals to generate 19,000 new export opportunities, giving our businesses premium access to the biggest economies in our region.

Our plan invests in local defence industries to ensure every defence dollar possible supports advanced manufacturers and thousands of Australians jobs.

Our Enterprise Tax Plan provides tax relief to tens of thousands of small-to-medium family businesses now and to all companies over time so they can invest, grow and hire more Australians.

“On the other hand, our opponents in the Labor Party have no economic plan.”

“Labor believes its best hope of being elected is to have trade union officials phone frail and elderly Australians in their homes at night, to scare them into thinking they are about to lose something which has never been at risk,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That’s not an alternative government, that’s an Opposition unfit to govern.”

Every element of Labor’s platform would discourage investment and employment.

He described it as: “a recipe for economic stagnation.”

“If returned at this election, we will convene a joint sitting to restore the rule of law in the construction industry and reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Mr Turnbull said.

So Australians could  have the building infrastructure  they need  “at a price they can afford.”

He said:  “housing values would fall in a fragile property market and rents would rise, because of Labor’s investment destroying ban on negative gearing and 50 per cent hike in capital gains tax.

“This threat is real.

“ So we need to be crystal-clear about what our votes will mean,” Mr Turnbull said.

“If your local vote is for Labor, Greens or an Independent, and you are in one of the 20 or so key battleground seats across the country, it is a vote for the chaos of a hung Parliament, a budget black hole, big Labor taxes, less jobs and more boats,” he warned.

Only a Liberal or National vote ensures stable government, a clear economic plan, real funding for the aged, Medicare and education; more jobs and strong borders.

Mr Turnbull urged Australians to: ““Vote for your local Liberal or National in the House and in the Senate.”

“In the last calendar year, there were 300,000 new jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent is well beneath what was anticipated when the Coalition came to office,” he added.

None of this happens by chance. Strong economic leadership supporting hard-working Australians means that, even with difficult global headwinds, we continue to grow our economy and expand our workforce.

And, today, I can announce additional policies from our Coalition team to support our national economic plan for jobs and growth.

Mr Turnbull said his government is determined to ensure none of our regional communities are left behind as we make the transition to a stronger new economy.

“… our regions must be at the frontline of the drive for innovation, jobs and growth,” Mr Turnbull said.

Our ‘Regional Jobs Fund’ is a major commitment… he added.

“As we build a stronger economy, it is vital that we also do all we can to ensure all Australians, especially young Australians, are not left behind,” he added.

So the Coalition woulds deliver a record $73.6 billion over the next four years for all Australian schools,” he said.

“Today, I can announce an additional $48 million for scholarships under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program, to help disadvantaged students to complete year 12 and transition to work or further education and training,” he added.

“The Coalition will also invest $31 million in programs to encourage more girls and women to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Turnbull said.

It would also help older Australians get smartphones.

He said only about one household in five, with people aged 60 or above, had a smartphone.

“To make their lives easier, to help them retain their independence, and to keep them connected to families and friends, I am announcing today a $50 million Coalition strategy to assist seniors who want to improve their digital literacy skills,” he said.

“And as announced earlier today, my Government will be investing $192 million more in front line mental health services including twelve suicide prevention sites around Australia and ten more headspace centres; and at the same time using smart phone and other technology to make these services more accessible,” he said.

This complements our support for Veterans’ mental health programs, itself a reminder that we best honour the diggers of Gallipoli and Fromelles by supporting the veterans and their families of today.

Mr Turnbull said; “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia.

“After six years of abject Labor neglect and indecision, our continuous shipbuilding strategy will ensure Australia retains a sovereign capability to build and sustain naval vessels, securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said:”Labor’s abandonment of John Howard’s proven border protection policy opened the door to the people-smugglers:

The results had included:-

  • 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats,
  • 1200 deaths at sea, of which we know,
  • Over 8000 children put into detention,
  • 17 detention centres opened, and
  • An $11 billion border protection budget blowout.

“In contrast, the Coalition has restored security at the border, integrity to our immigration program – and with it, public trust,” he said.

“I am proud to announce that today marks 700 days without a successful people-smuggling venture to our country,” he added.

“I am also very proud to announce that we have removed every child from detention in Australia,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor had failed Australia before.

“The people-smugglers are looking for the earliest sign that an Australian government will waver,” he added.

Mr Turnbull said: “our policies are tough.

“But  these policies have stopped the drownings at sea, and restored the integrity of, and trust in, our large but orderly immigration and refugee programs,” he added.

To further strengthen our domestic security I announce initiatives that go to that most fundamental of liberties – the right to live without fear of violence.

Mr Turnbull also said: “my first announcement as Prime Minister was a new $100 million package to encourage all Australians to confront squarely and honestly the ugly truth of violence against women and children in our society.

“Today, I can announce a $64 million commitment to crack down on the trafficking of illegal firearms on our streets, in particular by criminal gangs,” he added.

He said he is asking Australians to make a clear choice — to back a strong and stable Coalition majority government that can press ahead with its plan for a stronger new economy.

That would deliver the economic security that enables Australians to fulfill their aspirations.

“That is why I am asking my fellow Australians at this election to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy,” he said.

Friday 24th June 2016 - 4:19 pm
Comments Off on Brexit vote rattles markets

Brexit vote rattles markets

by Alan Thornhill

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is thinking of stepping down in the wake of his defeat in a campaign to keep his country in the European Union.


Although the count in the referendum on this issue is not yet complete, experts at the BBC were predicting, early this afternoon Australian time, that Britain would see a 52-48 per cent vote in favour of Britain leaving the EU, which it joined 43 years ago.


The vote in favour of leaving was unexpectedly high, particularly in Britain’s north.


The BBC said 15,580,755 Britons had voted to leave the EU at that point, while just 14,439,820  had voted to stay.


The knock-on effects were immediate.


Australian shares were 3.57 per cent down at 2.15 PM AEST, while the  $A was then hovering at 73.44US cents, a 3.84 per cent fall on the day.


And confusion reigned on global financial markets.



Mr Cameron had campaigned hard to keep Britain in the European Union.



So his apparent failure to do so is both a big personal and political set back for him.



The British pound dropped to levels not seen in 25 years, as news of the referendum result spread.



Austerity measures, adopted by his government, are believed to have made a big contribution to the result of the referendum.



It has lessons, too, for Australia which is to hold a Federal election on July 2.



Perhaps, though, the main one is that there is, in the end, only one poll that really counts.



For opinion polls, published just one day before the referendum in Britain, suggested

that Mr Cameron’s forces would prevail.



They didn’t.

Monday 20th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on Shorten startles Turnbull

Shorten startles Turnbull

by Alan Thornhill


For the first time in the present election campaign, Bill Shorten appears to have seized the initiative.

He did that on Sunday, when he declared that the vote July 2 would be “a referendum on Medicare.”

In doing so, he greatly increased his chances of becoming Prime Minister.

But he still has to win 21 seats to do that.

The Prime Minster’s response, to this challenge from the Opposition Leader, was to say – very forcefully – that it was based on “a lie.”

Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today that Labor had been ringing older people  in the evening, saying “Medicare is going to be sold off.

“Medicare will be privatised.

” This is the biggest lie of the campaign.”

“I want to be very clear. Medicare will never ever be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Every element of Medicare services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop,”  Mr Turnbull said.

Labor strategists remained  cool, saying simply that their charges are “biting.”

A reporter had asked Mr Turnbull why voters should accept his  latest promises  on Medicare when his predecessor,  Tony Abbott, had not kept his.

The Medicare debate has caught fire, among voters.

Reports in Fairfax newspapers today help to explain why.

The headline on one, in The Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Narcissistic’ surgeons charge cancer patients exorbitant out-of-pocket costs without disclosing

alternatives .”

It quotes chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda, saying : “the most brazen example was robotic surgery for prostate cancer.”

She said these cases attracted out-of-pocket fees of between $15,000 to $30,000, even though there is no evidence to suggest robotic surgery offered patients better cancer or functional outcomes than a standard prostatectomy when performed by a surgeon of equal skill.


“We know of patients who are mortgaging their houses because they are being led to believe that these flashy new types of procedures are the best way to have their cancer treated,” Professor Aranda added.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on PM says Medicare safe

PM says Medicare safe

by Alan Thornhill




An industry watchdog did Malcolm Turnbull no favours when it alleged there had been dirty work at the cross-roads as the Federal government moved to sell off Medibank Private.


Its action, just weeks before a Federal election. allowed some to suggest that Medicare, too, might soon be on the auction block.


The Medicare Private sale had been profitable, raising  almost $5.7 billion, which the Federal government said would be spent on infrastructure projects.


Now, though, that watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct,” to raise that very tidy sum.


Although the case has yet to be decided, unions have been out in the streets of Australian cities today, handing out brochures warning that the Federal government is now planning to sell Medicare as well.


The Prime Minister responded angrily, rejecting that accusation “absolutely” and accusing Labor of “frightening” old people, in particular, by telling them “disgraceful lies.”


Scare campaigns are not entirely unknown, in Australian elections.


Both sides, at times, have accused their rivals of indulging in them.


This time, though, the tension evident in Mr Turnbull’s voice, as he rejected that allegation, showed that he recognises that Medicare might still become a decisive issue, in the present campaign.


Speaking in a radio interview, he said his government would: “absolutely, completely, unequivocally guarantee Medicare will not be privatised – will never be privatised. ”


“It is a core government service,” he said.


“It will always be provided entirely by the government,” the Prime Minister added.


 The interviewer, Neil Mitchell, then said: “So you are just selling off the support area?”


Mr Turnbull replied: “It is one of the most disgraceful lies the Labor Party is telling.


“And they have trade union officials ringing up people, selective, they are ringing up in particular older Australians and frightening them with this lie.”


“ Medicare is a core government service.”


“It will always be provided by the government.”


““ It will never be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

Friday 17th June 2016 - 5:02 pm
Comments Off on Medibank Private sale worries Labor

Medibank Private sale worries Labor

by Alan Thornhill

Labor says it is “deeply concerned” by allegations that Medibank Private deliberately deceived its members to get a better price, when it was privatised.


The Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King, said: “While the allegations will be tested in court, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Medibank of “engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations and engaging in unconscionable conduct” by failing to tell Medibank members about a decision to limit benefits paid to members for in-hospital pathology and radiology services.”


She aslo said: “Labor is particular concerned at the ACCC’s allegation that Medibank Private kept consumers in the dark about the change in order to maximise its sale price.



“If proved, this would mean Medibank members were penalised at the benefit of the Federal Government, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann publicly stating that the sale raised almost $5.7 billion.
Ms King said:”today’s events come only months after the newly-privatised Medibank reported a massive increase in profit for the first half of the 2015-16 financial year of $271.7 million, up $100 million or almost 60 per cent in just one year.
She said: “the Abbott- Turnbull Government consistently failed to make the case for the sale of Medibank, and today’s ACCC action indicates the privatisation has provided no benefit to either the health system or health insurance policyholders.
And she added: “…today is just another stark reminder of the danger to patients if the Turnbull Government is re-elected and continues to press ahead with its plans to privatise Medicare, putting profits before patients across the entire health system.
“Only a Shorten Labor Government can be trusted to protect Medicare. “ Ms King said.

Sunday 12th June 2016 - 7:35 pm
Comments Off on PM warns voters

PM warns voters

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, warned today that Australia cannot take its economic success for granted.


Speaking to reporters on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Mr Turnbull said re-election of his government on July 2 would mean: “  More opportunity and more jobs.”


“We understand the nature of the times in which we live,” the Prime Minister said.


“More competition, more opportunities, greater challenges.


“We recognise that we cannot take our economic success for granted,” Mr Turnbull said.


Meanwhile the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said Australians would see shorter waiting times, at the nation’ hospitals, if he becomes Prime Minister on July 2.


However a new poll, published today, suggests that Labor is not getting enough support, in marginal electorates, to  change the government.


The ReachTEL poll, conducted,  in seven marginal seats held by the Coalition, confirms that Labor could remain in opposition, even if it wins a majority of the popular vote, on July 2.


That last happened in 1998, when Kim Beazley led the party.

Mr Turnbull said:”. We understand the nature of the times in which we live


” More competition, more opportunities, greater challenges.


“We recognise that we cannot take our economic success for granted.


We need to have a plan.


“We do have a plan.


“Every element of it will deliver stronger economic growth and more jobs,” Mr Turnbull said.


However Mr Shorten chose to concentrate on health issues today.


He said a Labor Government would reduce waiting times for elective surgery and emergency departments, invest in hospitals and protect Medicare so Australia has the strong health system we need for the future.
“Labor will also ramp up investment in health care at the frontline – so fewer Australians end up in hospital in the first place,” he added.
“All Australians deserve access to the best possible health care when they need it – determined by their Medicare card, not their credit card.
That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will restore the National Health Reform Agreement for four years, at the originally agreed funding formula of 50 per cent of growth in costs based on the National Efficient Price, and provide additional support to the States and Territories to reduce waiting times for elective surgery and in public hospital emergency departments,” he said.
“This will boost hospital funding by $2 billion more than the Liberals over the next four years, and drive efficiency by funding the States and Territories on the basis of the actual services performed,” he added.











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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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