Browsing articles in "Health"
Monday 22nd June 2015 - 3:49 pm
Comments Off on Cheaper pharmaceuticals coming:government

Cheaper pharmaceuticals coming:government

by Alan Thornhill

The cost of some 2,000 pharmaceutical products will be cut under new legislation the Federal government will introduce into the Senate this week, the Health Minister, Sussan Ley said today.

Ms Ley said the government is looking forward to securing Labor’s co-operation on these reforms.

She said these reforms would put consumers first.

Ms Ley was speaking at question time.

So far, the opposition has not responded to her challenge.

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Thursday 18th June 2015 - 4:50 pm
Comments Off on Government defends new pension rates

Government defends new pension rates

by Alan Thornhill

Scott Morrison told parliament today that pensioners were not treated badly in the May budget.

In fact, the Social Security Minister said, “the most vulnerable” would be receiving a rise of $30 a fortnight.

He said the new rates, to apply from January 1 2017, had been set after discussions with interested parties, including the Australian Council of Social Service.

Mr Morrison’s defence of the government’s position followed an attack earlier in the day, by the Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin.

Ms Macklin said new research had shown that Tony Abbott’s second budget is “just as unfair as his first.”

Her observation was based on research by Ben Phillips, of the Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis.

Mr Phillips, in turn, used modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.

Mr Phillips said the May budget papers, combined with old measures yet to pass the Senate, show that the government expects to get a total of $18 billion, over the forward estimates period, through savings and tax increases.

But he said that while the poorest 20 per cent of households would account for 33 per cent of this extra money, the top 20 per cent would account for only 7 per cent.

Ms Macklin said this research also shows that more than 1.4 million families will be worse off.

“Tony Abbott’s second budget is just as unfair as his first, and will hit low and middle income families the hardest,” Ms Macklin said.

“80 per cent of families with children earning below $75,000 will lose out overall,” she added.

Ms Macklin also said six out of seven families who receive Family Tax Benefits will be worse off because of the Government’s child care changes and Family Tax Benefit cuts.

“One in ten families receiving Family Tax Benefit will be over $4,000 a year worse off,” Ms Macklin added.

“The Government’s child care changes will push some families out of the child care system altogether, while others will have their access cut in half,” she said.

“By linking child care changes to Family Tax Benefit cuts, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison are holding families to ransom.

“Tony Abbott promised not to fix his budget at the expense of the family budget – but that was a lie,” Ms Macklin said.

“Low and middle income families, and children who need access to early education and care, will be hurt the most by Tony Abbott’s Budget,” she added.

Wednesday 10th June 2015 - 1:30 pm
Comments Off on Who’s eating their vegies?

Who’s eating their vegies?

by Alan Thornhill

Just had a high energy snack that is, perhaps, a little low in nutritional value?

Well, you are not alone.

The Bureau of Statistics. which has been checking up on our eating habits, reports:” All Australians love treat foods no matter where they live.”

“In every State and Territory, Australians love their treat or discretionary food – food high in energy but low in nutritional value,” its report adds.

However the Bureau also said the results of its Australian Health Survey show different eating habits for each State and Territory.

The Bureau’s Louise Gates said the survey report tells us Australians obtain 35 per cent of their energy from discretionary foods.”

She said Tasmanians and Northern Territorians obtained the highest proportion of energy in this way – at 38 per cent -while Canberrans had the lowest score at 33 per cent.”

The survey also showed that people, in the Northern Territory, trying to quench their thirst, in hot weather, recorded the nation’s highest level of soft drink consumption, at 33 per cent.

Soft drink was least popular in Canberra where only 23 per cent of people reported drinking it

“Tasmanians were the most fond of confectionary with over a third – 37 per cent – consuming it,” the Burreau said.

Snack foods were most popular in New South Wales where 16 per cent of people ate them.

However Tasmanians also had the highest daily intake of vegetables, with 9 per cent meeting the recommended daily intake.

Only 5 per cent in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Canberra, could match that virtuous achievement.

“However, Tasmanians were least likely to meet the recommendations for fruit (48 per cent), while people from New South Wales and Canberra were the most likely (54 per cent),” the Bureau added.

“We also found 22 per cent of people in the Northern Territory ate fish making them the most likely state or territory to eat fish but least likely to eat fruit (53 per cent).” said Ms Gates

“Tasmanians on the other hand were least likely to eat fish (13 per cent), however they matched South Australians as the most likely to enjoy cheese (36 per cent compared to 32 per cent of all of Australians).

“Canberrans were most likely to enjoy a glass of wine (22 per cent) while in the Northern Territory, beer is the alcoholic drink of choice (21 per cent).

“Adults in Western Australia were most likely to have an alcoholic beverage (39 per cent) and Victorians and Tasmanians were least likely (30 per cent).”

Tuesday 9th June 2015 - 11:48 am
Comments Off on Food labelling:have your say

Food labelling:have your say

by Alan Thornhill

Do you like – or need – to know where your food comes from?

If so, you might like to spend a few minutes advising the government on country of origin labelling.

The Industry and Science Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, would appreciate your help.

This follows an outbreak of Hepatitis A that was linked to imported berries.

In a joint statement today, the two ministers said their online survey would help the government design a new labelling system.

They said the government has already consulted growers, processors and retailers on the issue.

And it is now time for Australia’s shoppers to be heard.

“…we are now asking for consumer feedback from the shoppers who will be in the supermarket making use of the new labels,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Consumers have told us loud and clear that they want more useful food labelling, and now we want to hear from them about which options they prefer,” he added.

So how do you take part?

Well, the country of origin food labelling community survey is available at and and hard copies can be requested by
calling 13 28 46.

Tuesday 26th May 2015 - 6:53 pm
Comments Off on Abolition of the “tampon tax” being costed

Abolition of the “tampon tax” being costed

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is costing a proposal to remove GST from tampons and other women’s sanitary products.

The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, confirmed in a statement late today saying that he had asked the Treasury to tell him what such a change would cost.

This follows Mr Hockey’s appearance on the ABC television program Q&A last night, during which a questioner reminded the Treasurer that these items are essential health products for women.

All the money the Federal government raises through the GST goes straight to State and Territory governments.

And they are likely to insist that any revenue lost, if the so-called tampon tax is abolished, must be made up in other ways.

One suggestion, already raised, is that this could be done by imposing GST on digital downloads from foreign suppliers.

Mr Hockey said, in his statement, that:” I have asked Treasury to cost removing the GST from sanitary products.

“When I receive those costings, I will write to the states for them to consider the issue ahead of our next meeting in July,” he added.

Tuesday 26th May 2015 - 8:10 am
Comments Off on Joe’s attack on NATSEM misfires

Joe’s attack on NATSEM misfires

by Alan Thornhill

Labor will press its attack on the fairness of the Federal budget in parliament, after an attempt to discredit the report, on which it was based, was swept aside early today.

The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, tried to discredit the report, at question time in Parliament yesterday, by suggesting that it was nothing more than a two page document – written by a Labor staffer.

But Labor has now countered that suggestion, by releasing the full report it had commissioned – from highly respected National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling – early today.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, had based his attack on the fairness of the budget – at question time yesterday – on the NATSEM report.

Government members had then responded vigorously, demanding that the report be released in full.

(Its main conclusions had been published in several newspapers yesterday).

“Release it,” they cried.

Mr Hockey was questioned again on the report, when he appeared on the ABC television program Q&A last night.

He said, then, that he had still not seen the full report.

Mr Hockey was also questioned closely on the program about whether he is “double dipping” by claiming a living away from home allowance, of $270 a night, for staying in a house, owned by his wife, while in Canberra. (See earlier story).

Mr Hockey also agreed – on the program – to lobby states to ditch GST on tampons, sanitary items.

He did so in response to a student who had questioned him on the subject.

The NATSEM report, released – early today – backs Labor’s attack on the fairness of the budget.

It found that the poorest 20 per cent of Australian families will pay $1.1 billion more into government coffers than the richest households, as a result of the budget.

This highlights a huge inequity in the government’s four-year blueprint for fiscal repair.

The NATSEM report also reveals how heavily the burden of budget consolidation has fallen on those less well-off, especially if they have school-age children.

It divides the community into five segments or quintiles, each with a little over 2.5 million families.

NATSEM reported that the poorest 20 per cent – those with $35,000 or less in disposable annual income – will forgo $2.9 billion over four years as a result of to changes to family benefits, pensions and other payments.

By contrast, the wealthiest 20 per cent of- earning $88,000 or more after tax and benefits – will suffer a $1.78 billion hit.

That is some 40 per cent lighter than the lowest income families.

Overall, those in the lowest quintile will see incomes fall by an average of almost 2.2 per cent while those in the highest quintilea face a decline of only 0.2 per cent.

Sunday 24th May 2015 - 4:23 pm
Comments Off on How’s Tony travelling?

How’s Tony travelling?

by Alan Thornhill


How’s Tony going?

With Federal parliament about to begin its winter sittings that is, undoubtedly, the central question in Australian politics now.

But let’s take a broader look.

The bounce that the government has received in the polls after its second – and more user friendly – budget was predictable.

What we don’t know yet is whether Tony Abbott can hold – and build on his new found support – or whether things will slip back to where they have been over recent months.

There are several complications.

Neither of the major parties, for example, has its natural leader at its helm.

In retrospect, the independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott had a point – when they decided after the 2010 election that Tony Abbott didn’t have the stability needed to be a Prime Minister – and supported Labor instead.

And many Liberals would still feel more comfortable under their former leader, Malcolm Turnbull, than Mr Abbott as they move towards the next elections.

Mr Turnbull, certainly, has his faults.

But he also has an eloquence – and related gifts – that Tony Abbott simply cannot match.

A look over the fence, though, shows that Labor isn’t led by its best man, either.

With names like Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, still ringing in Australian politics, Labor has produced some real political pizzazz in recent years.

Until now.

Bill Shorten is not – yet – being compared with any of those Labor heroes.

The most common complaint, in Labor circles, about the current Opposition Leader is that he is simply “not cutting through.”

Not yet, at least.

And the time – before the next election – whether early or not – is running out very quickly.

But Chris* Bowen who is – probably – Labor’s best bet – if Bill was to go – has simply shown no interest so far in trying out for the nation’s top job.

Tony Abbott bases much of his political appeal on something very deep – and not particularly respectable – in the Australian political psyche.

He does that as he boasts,constantly, about stopping the boats.

And, none too modestly reminds us of the much feared “refugee flood.”

However a growing number of voters is recognising the contribution that Vietnamese refugees are making to the sophistication of Australian life.

And many are starting to back the Greens.

This moving batch includes a substantial clutch of voters who have, traditionally, supported Labor.

That is causing senior people, in the Labor movement, to ask whether their party’s policy of falling into line with the Libs, on border protection, isn’t producing an unintended consequence.

That is setting up the Greens, as a third force, in Australian politics.

Couldn’t Australia do better by looking for something better in the – admittedly complex – field of refugee management?.

As some of our closest neighbours are already doing.

Then, of course, there’s the economy.

With growth slow – and the Reserve Bank assuring us that it is likely to remain so – over the politically critical period ahead – this is an area in which Labor should be able – at least – to make a real fight of it.

While it is true, at least, that the Abbott government’s second budget isn’t as bad as the first, in the public mind, that is not – necessarily – saying all that much.

The most detailed analysis of the latest budget, so far, is undoubtedly that produced by the Australian Council of Social Service.

It has not added to the euphoria, that has greeted Joe Hockey’s second budget, so far.

Quite the opposite.

As the Australians Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, says:”analysis by ACOSS shows that Mr Hockey’s two budgets rip an estimated $15 billion from low and middle income households over four years.

“This entrenches the Abbott Government’s vicious agenda to pursue our most vulnerable rather than the big end of town.

“Mr Hockey should be ashamed of this figure, especially considering his by-line urging all Australians to ‘have a go’.

“Each day this Government pursues these measures they further disadvantage those in need.

“The Abbott Government’s pursuit of vulnerable Australians is intensified by his failure in the budget to address the inadequacy of income support payments such as Newstart.

“People will continue to slip further behind and vital services that would have provided support have been cut.

“We know that the Government is harsh and paternalistic when attempting to balance the nation’s purse, but they will find it difficult to push harsh measures that pick on our most vulnerable through the Senate.

“I urge the Government to move away from severe measures that hurt our most vulnerable.

“This includes keeping people under 25 off income support for a month, offering a ‘families package’ at the expense of cuts to Family Tax Benefit Part B, and no increase to the Newstart Allowance.

“We are a caring society and can do better,” Senator Siewert said.

ACOSS is not a natural friend of the government.

But analysis, like this, carries weight.

How much?

That is still not clear.

*An earlier version of this story had the name as Lionel, not Chris Bowen. My mistake

Tuesday 12th May 2015 - 10:12 pm
Comments Off on It’s “fundamentally unfair” Labor

It’s “fundamentally unfair” Labor

by Alan Thornhill

The Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, described the budget as fundamentally unfair.

He said:”This is not a Budget for Australia’s future – this is a short sighted attempt to save Tony Abbott’s job.

“Tonight’s Budget has more tax, more debt and higher unemployment.

“It is the worst of all worlds.

“On Joe Hockey’s own numbers, he has doubled the deficit in one year.”

Mr Bowen said the cuts the public rejected last time are again at the core of tonight’s budget.

These included an $80 billion cut from hospitals and schools; $100,000 university degrees; cuts to family payments.

“The Government has failed the test it set for itself – spending is up, deficits are up, unemployment is up,” Mr Bowen said.

“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have broken their promise to families that they would not be hurt – this Budget is paid for by cuts to households’ budgets,” he added.

“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have broken their promise for no new taxes,” he said.

“This Budget contains 17 new taxes.”

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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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