Doctor and activist


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Category: Privatisation

NDIS- An Unsuccessful Privatisation of the Welfare System

13 January 2022

I was never in favour of the National Disability Insurance System as I saw it as a defacto privatisation and reliance on a ‘market’ which would have another layer of assessors, who may or may not get it right in a single interview, the award of ‘packages’ of money which may or may not be enough and/or may or may not be wisely spend.  The greatest problem was that as a ’market’ it would be always liable to have glossy marketing to vulnerable families, with services delivered as cheaply as possible, by unqualified people and profits skimmed off.  The government coffers were topped up by increasing the Medicare levy, which just ensured that the private sector was given huge amounts of public money.

When I was in the NSW Parliament’s Social Issues Committee  which looked at the issue, a key problem was that there was no actual numbers of what the needs were for disability services. There were two ways of calculating it. The first was to add up all the people on benefits on the assumption that everyone who needed benefits was getting them. The other way was to ask the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the government-funded research body what percentage of the population had a disability and multiply that percentage by the population.  Their answer was many multiples of those on welfare, presumably either because their relatives or support networks were looking after their problems, or there was unmet need. 

It seemed obvious that:

  1. There would be a huge increase in demand when more resources were (at least in theory) available
  2. There would be a lot of bureaucracy that would waste a lot of money
  3. Those actually doing the job and who knew the needs at a practical level would  have less control so the decision making would worsen
  4. There would be a lot of profiteering
  5. Disability workers would face a race to the bottom in pay and conditions.

It might be noted that NDIS cuts out when you are 65, so the whole process restarts with recipients having to apply for a Disability Support Pension (DSP). The current government has boasted that it is putting only a third as many people  on the DSP as formerly.  My experience was that when the NSW government stopped all Workers Comp payments after 5 years, many people who had been on this support for 5 year at least had to apply for the DSP. Figures were rubbery as the NSW government did not want to know how many people were simply tipped off income support, but the best estimate was that about 20% got the DSP and the rest had to go on Jobseeker. I wrote a lot of detailed medical reports for people who were still unable to get the DSP, and then the government wrote to me and said that I could only charge a very modest Medicare amount to write such reports, so presumably doctors will not be able to take much time on them.  I cannot write them in the time that the allowance pays.  I had one patient who was 61, ethnic, unskilled and illiterate in English who had been on compensation for a back injury 13 years and was carer for an invalid wife and was refused the DSP despite my best efforts and put  into the ‘mutual obligation’ multiple job application system.

But to get back to the NDIS itself, I recently chanced across this article recently from an old issue of Green Left Weekly- a personal story.  It seems very credible.

My view is the NDIS needs to be abolished, but it will be very hard to rebuild a public welfare support system against a well-funded and established private lobby that is making a fortune and has at least one major party ready to undo any efforts in this direction.

NDIS is also making life harder for disability workers

Janine Brown, Melbourne, February 8, 2019, Green Left Weekly Issue 1208

I am employed as a disability support worker by a council and, since the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), I will soon lose my job. This is my story.

I am in transition to becoming “self-employed” with an ABN (Australian Business Number), which makes me a small business, and enables me to sign individual contracts with each client.

The other alternative was to become an employee of a private company that has contracts with NDIS clients.

From these two bad choices, I decided to go with the former.

We have been told that NDIS will be much better for hundreds of thousands of Australians. But is it?

Once families receive NDIS funding, it is their responsibility to make the choices for their child or adult family member and manage their finances over a 12-month period.

The idea that they are in control of the life choices of their family member may sound appealing. But the stress levels rise with the amount of bookkeeping required and when it is difficult to clearly define their needs.

Parents are encouraged to employ an advisor, but that person is paid for by the funding for their family member. That NDIS planner will recommend “one of theirs”, someone who will ask many questions and tick many boxes but who doesn’t really know the needs and interests of the person concerned.

I was once supporting a child at home when the NDIS planner was interviewing his parents. One of the questions was “Do you own your home?” I invited the planner to meet the child but she declined, saying it wasn’t necessary.

As much as I agree with giving parents options in choosing a carer for their child, the options being presented are often inadequate to the task at hand.

By privatising the disability sector, many people are obtaining an ABN (which is easy to do online) and presenting themselves as a qualified support worker. They do not need background checks and parents who search online for support workers only see promotional material.

I am qualified and have many years of experience, but l am now in competition with an untrained person who is willing to provide “services” at a cheaper rate. They call it business. I call it a dangerous rort.

NDIS has also meant that our work is now casual: we no longer have permanent employment with leave benefits, superannuation and union support.

A few weeks ago a parent asked me to do a buddy shift with a potential new carer as she lives near the client. Having a carer nearby is appealing for parents who may need to call on you at the last minute.

l agreed to do the shadow shift. I found that the inexperienced carer had no idea about the work responsibilities or the safety measures. She had no knowledge about supporting someone who is non-verbal with behavioural difficulties, who needs support in all aspects of daily life. She appeared to be more interested in the times of shifts, rather than the child’s needs.

It is easy to be blinded by the NDIS marketing, but just as the privatisation of the aged care sector has led to cuts in staff, quality meals and wound management, the same is true for the disAbility sector.

There are also many grey areas concerning the care of people with a disability.

Statistics show that as the number of people being diagnosed with autism (done by general practioners) has increased in the past few years. This adds to the NDIS budget.

As a result, NDIS bureaucrats are thinking of using “their people” to make the diagnosis. If this happens, we can expect a decline in the numbers of people being diagnosed with autism and many who need support will not be eligible for funding for appropriate services.

Another grey area concerns supporting people transitioning from childhood to adulthood, and teaching them to become more independent.

It is sometimes possible to teach a person to take public transport to an activity. However, it becomes a crisis situation when the bus/tram/train is late or cancelled and the person has lost all points of reference and they have to navigate replacement measures.

The NDIS planner may have ticked a box for someone to take public transport to an activity when things are going well, but an unexpected or crisis situation which causes the person anxiety is not factored into the plan.

It is imperative that we continue to support vulnerable people in our community. We must not be blinded by the NDIS hype when the reality is vastly different.

www.greenleft.org.au/content/ndis-also-making-life-harder-disability-workers

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COVID Day 4- a non-PCR Day

5 January 2022

I did nothing today- it just took longer than usual.

I felt much the same, a sore throat, not much energy, a bit of a headache and bouts of a dry cough. I did not feel like exercise and I thought that I had better try to get a PCR test and some Rapid Antigen tests in case we needed to prove we were not infectious, or had other people who were concerned contacts.

I researched online where the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests were being done. The site I used 2 weeks ago, a 4Cyte drive through test that had taken an hour to do and 3 days and 16 hours to get results from was closed Wed-Friday. It was not clear why this was but the Laverty Pathology group at 60 Waterloo Rd near Macquarie Centre was open till 4pm. I took a novel in case of a long wait and drove there.

As I approached from the google direction cars in the left lane were not moving from the major intersection as far as one could see to the next hill. Many of them had their tail lights on, so I reflected that they were sitting in a line with the engines on. Bad for the environment, but it at least told me that his was the queue. I turned off the engine and started to read. After a while I was wondering why no progress at all was being made, and I thought I might ask if I was under some misapprehension. As I looked up, a pleasant looking woman in her mid-30s got out of the small car ahead, and went to her boot.

I called to her out the window, ‘Is this the PCR test queue?

‘Reckon so’, she said, ‘I’ve brought some snacks to get through it’. She took some biscuits, grapes and a drink and got back in.

We advanced glacially slowly, and I noticed that there was a side road a little way down the queue. Space had been left so cars could go in and out of this side road, but cars had also started to queue there, and of course the two queues merged at the intersection. I had not thought of this until I was nearly at the corner, and I suppose the woman in the car hadn’t either. Some on the side road were shouting abuse or tooting as if we were somehow pushing in to their queue. There were no signs, no guides and nothing online, so it seemed that the only fair thing to do was to take alternate cars. My young friend had recognised this before I had and moved her car across the middle of the side road, so that cars exiting or entering could go in front or behind her, but she could be sure that the side road queued cards did not just push in. There was a cacophony of abuse from the side street.

The queue moved forward a few cars, so I followed her closely, letting one car in as seemed fair. A large 4WD with a man screaming obscenities at me tried to push in, but I kept him out. I wondered if he would get out and make trouble but he did not. The passenger in the car I had let ahead of me had got out and was remonstrating with the woman who had been in front of me. It was tense. I was very glad we were not in America with some people having guns.

We continued our glacial advance, then a car coming in the other direction stopped. The driver stuck his head our and was shouting something to those in the queue ahead of me. I could not hear him, but he did not seem abusive, so as he passed I called to him to ask what he had said. He said, ‘They have closed early; I was second in the queue and they told me to go away’. It seemed likely that he was right, but most people had waited so long that they were not willing to drive off, so we moved quite slowly till everyone had driven past the ‘Closed’ sign that had appeared in the driveway. It was 2pm. The testing site was advertised to be open till 4.

No test and a couple of hours wasted. I have COVID. It is not recorded in the system. It seems that I will recover. Will I waste another few hours tomorrow? And if I do will I have PCR results anyway? I am scheduled to see my patients again 9 days after the onset of symptoms- presumably I will be non-infectious. Luckily I got some RAT kits.

It is not hard to see where anger and frustration comes in all of this.

‘Personal responsibility’ has a very Darwinian edge.

Thank God I am not very sick.

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The Chinese Way

4 January 2022

Everyone want to criticise China as an authoritarian state, but if you stand back and look at how they tackle challenges that we have, there may be lessons to be learned.

There was an interesting show on ABC TV last night hosted by Hamish Macdonald ‘The China Century’, Part 1 of 5.  It looked at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and their ruthless repression.  But next week it will look at how they have combined capitalism and strong state control.

Competition increase efficiency when it lowers prices, but note in the late stage of ‘laissez faire’ monopolies allow supernormal profits and their political influence puts them above the law.  Sometimes the loss of central control may also mean that a fragmented industry cannot produce state of the art products.  I read some time ago that the US is having a problem producing good fighter planes because the intellectual property is now spread over a number of competing companies, so no one company can be state of the art on all aspects.  A single body controlling the situation would not have this problem.

The other aspect is that the Chinese can write the rules for its industries and not simply assume that whatever makes the most profit in the immediate term is the best place to consume resources.

In Australia, our economy is totally out of whack because the tax concession of negative gearing has meant that everyone has simply invested in real estate as a ‘no brainer’ way of making money. But the rise in prices is in a sense arbitrary.  If a house goes up in price from $100k to a million, it is still the same house.  The difference is that the person who now buys it has $million debt.  The ‘profit’ is someone else’s borrowing.  So at a national level, we have the second highest level of private debt in the world (after Switzerland) and just pay interest to foreign banks.  We also have no money to invest in our productive export industries, or even think about them as real estate is so easy.  We note that developers distort the electoral process and do dodgy deals to get their approvals through, but once it is all done, we wring our hands- nothing can be done. The building stands, and it will all happen again next time.

We watch askance as our regulatory systems fail.  The Banking Royal Commission was initiated by a whistle-blower not the regulator, and nothing much has changed; one banker resignation, no one charged. We saw the Aged Care inquiry, the Casino Inquiry were both whistle-blower initiated as well.  We are up to 4 inquiries into iCare and nothing changes.  We hope that our buildings are OK, as the regulatory system has not been working too well there for about 25 years. 

We note that our rich are getting much richer and our poor poorer, but our government does not want to do much about that.  Hey if you can’t afford a Rapid Antigen Test, you can always wait and see if get sick.  ‘Universal health care’ is a good slogan.

We see our kids getting fatter and more addicted to computer games, but there is not much we can do about that. We are moving to high rise schools as so many were sold off in the 1980s and now there is no space for recreation, and we also saved on sport teachers and made serious exercise optional.

We worry that our electoral system is influenced by fake news, trolls and data analysis companies. We understand that the social media concentrates on putting like people together so they will stay logged in and be available to advertise to. We understand that a shock headline also attracts more interest and controversy, so we are hyper stimulated until we ignore what is important.  Advertising always affected media content towards making people more receptive to the ads and purchasing; social media has now put it on steroids.

The Chinese have taken all this on.  They have put a super tax on rich people and made statements about everyone having a decent life. They have tried to lessen kids times on computers and to increase their exercise. They have taken on social media, and most recently forced a major developer to demolish high rise building because the building permit was illegally obtained.  The developer is a major one, and already in danger of going broke.  Can anyone image this happening in Australia or the US? 

Many problems  in the world are universal, and watching what a truly authoritarian government can do is interesting. We have the contrast of our governments, that seem to want to be as small as possible and not even acknowledge problems, and theirs which seems to testing the limits of power.  We may not want to do it ourselves, but if we ever decide to do anything, it will be helpful to have information on the outcome of the range of possible actions.

Here is an article about Evergrande, the Chinese property developer which is going broke and now had to demolish significant assets.  It was in the SMH, from Bloomberg. 

Next Monday on ABC TV at 8.30pm the second article on China, considering its use of the combination of capitalism and central control.

China’s Evergrande halts trading after ordered to tear down apartments

By Jan Dahinten

January 3, 2022 — 3.29pm

Chinese developer shares tumbled following local media reports that China Evergrande Group has been ordered to tear down apartment blocks in a development in Hainan province. Evergrande halted trading in its shares.

An index of Chinese developer shares slumped 2.8 per cent as of 11.37 a.m. local time, with Sunac China Holdings and Shimao Group Holdings plunging more than 10 per cent. A local government in Hainan told Evergrande to demolish 39 buildings in 10 days because the building permit was illegally obtained, news wire Cailian reported on Saturday.

Evergrande gave no details on the trading suspension other than saying it would make an announcement containing inside information.

The government of Danzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southern Chinese province of Hainan, asked Evergrande to tear down 39 illegal buildings in 10 days, Cailian reported on Sunday, citing a document from the local government.

The report cited the document, which was dated December 30, as saying that the Danzhou government said an illegally obtained permit for the buildings had been revoked so the buildings need to be dismantled.

Evergrande didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment and calls to Danzhou authorities went unanswered on a public holiday in China on Monday.

The company on Friday dialed back payment plans on billions of dollars of overdue wealth management products as its liquidity crisis showed little sign of easing.

Property firms have mounting bills to pay in January and shrinking options to raise necessary funds. The industry will need to find at least $US197 billion ($271 billion) to cover maturing bonds, coupons, trust products and deferred wages to millions of migrant workers, according to Bloomberg calculations and analyst estimates.

Beijing has urged builders like China Evergrande Group to meet payrolls by month-end in order to avoid the risk of social unrest.

Contracted sales for 31 listed developers fell 26 per cent in December from a year earlier, according to Citigroup Inc. analysts. Evergrande’s sales dropped 99 per cent, the analysts wrote in a note dated Sunday.

Bloomberg

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Australian Universities’ Neoliberal Legacy

10 October 2021

The legacy of being turned into financial entities may be very severe. This article looks at their finances.

What will happen to Australia’s intellectual elite, now hopelessly underpaid or unemployed with no stable career path?

How can Australia compete internationally in this scenario?

https://jacobinmag.com/2021/09/australia-universities-neoliberalism-speculation-finance-real-estate-international-students?

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Toll Doesn’t Pay Toll

8 October 2021

Trucking giant Toll Holdings tells its drivers to avoid toll roads as they are not worth the time savings. It might be noted that Air Freight to Melbourne is actually taken by trucks, the only thing being sky high is the prices.The toll roads have the price levels befitting a private monopoly of Transurban. They were sold as lessening congestion. They have taken the money and now we have done nothing for our rail network. There was an article in the SMH of 29/9/21 and also this one:

www.truckandbus.net.au/toll-says-no-to-tolls/

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Victorian Government Bites the Bullet and Mandates Vaccination

22 September 2021

At last!  A government that does the sensible thing.  The Victorian government will only open up if people are vaccinated.  Thanks to NSW the Delta variant genie is out of the bottle and spreading nationwide.  Business wants to unlock, some with no care for anyone but themselves.

Victoria wants to unlock but minimise spread among those now having more interpersonal contacts.  The R (Reproduction) number is the number of cases each case infects.  If everyone is vaccinated, less people will get it and those who have it will get it to less people.

Reasonable medical opinion is that the risks of vaccine are massively less than the risks of getting COVID, so the case against vaccination is incredibly weak on medical grounds.  The ‘right not to have your body violated’ etc sounds very dramatic, and makes vaccination equivalent to rape in a semantic sense.   But in a practical sense the two concepts are as far apart as could be.  One is sensible medicine and the other is a crime.

Anyone who thinks that this does not matter should look at the graph of NSW cases that has peaked and is just starting to fall.  Anything that can flatten the curve or make it fall is good. Anything that makes it rise is creating deaths and misery.

I am a member of the Council for Civil Liberties and have spent years working against excess government power. But sometimes it is necessary to act for the common good.  I have no time for smokers’ rights or the right to spread disease.  The Morrison government is as usual missing in action when real leadership is needed.  ‘Let every workplace decide’, is a nightmare for retail business owners, offices and just about every other employer. Gladys is similarly missing.  Dan Andrews has stepped up, despite a motley crew in the streets spreading disease and demanding the right to continue to do so.

What of the Health System?  We are going the way of the Americans by stealth, and the fact that the public system is what has helped us survive is being glossed over, hidden  by subsidies to private hospitals. The Federal government has been quietly trying to kill public medicine for years. The Medicare rebate has fallen from 85% of the AMA rate to 45%, so for the same bulk-billing work doctors incomes have almost halved over 35 years, while subsidies to the inefficient Private Health Insurers continue.  Being a GP is now a little-sought speciality.  (I have a FB page- Fix Medicare that I spend too little time on).

The States have maintained the public hospitals at a minimal level, as all the lucrative work has been siphoned off by the private system basically doing the easy stuff.  There is No slack in the system, not that counting the number of ICU beds should factor.  All our efforts should be to keep people out of Hospital and ICU by prevention of infection. 

Have a look at this article on the anti-discrimination aspects of mandatory vaccination, and also look at the NSW cases, just turning down, but likely to rise if anything, like opening up from lockdown, tips the balance.

www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/here-s-why-no-jab-no-entry-is-not-discrimination-20210920-p58t2v.html?fbclid=IwAR2jrbfGJsq6fD-J-unnAn12j9UyWvdk-do5BpE23bI0z0gQ8kknq5nc39c

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What Has Gone Wrong in Australia?

8 September 2021

John Quiggin gives a good, insightful summary in The Monthly.

www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2021/september/1630418400/john-quiggin/dismembering-government?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021&utm_content=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021+CID_77319af0620e0ea97965a0e5af6e7e60&utm_source=EDM&utm_term=The Monthly#mtr

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The 2021 Census- Why you should put ‘No Religion’

4 August 2021

I thought that Australia was one of the least religious countries in the world in terms of church attendance.  When I was in Uruguay a tour guide claimed that his was the least religious country, and I said that Australia was. Looking at church attendance statistics we were both wrong. 

Here are some figures from Pew Research in 2018: China 1%, Sweden 6%, Russia 7%, Norway 7%, UK 8%, Germany 10%, France 12%, Uruguay 14%, Spain 15%, Greece 16%, Australia 17%, Chile 19%, Canada 20%, Israel 30%, the US 36%, Bangladesh 58%, Indonesia 73% (From comparecamp.com)

Church attendance is declining everywhere in the developed world, but their influence here is rising due to their systematic entry into politics.  Scott Morrison is fond of saying ‘God helps those that help themselves’ and seems to live by this, getting Pentecostals into Parliament and into Cabinet, (not to mention helping himself with sports rorts and car parks).

The religious agenda of subsidies to religious schools to the detriment of State schools, the huge subsidy by tax exemptions for Church-owned land and businesses, the continuation of religious education in supposedly secular schools to the exclusion of secular ethics classes,  the exemptions to the Equal Opportunity laws that allow churches not to hire gays, the right to continue to smack children, and even demands to have special rights with the 2019 Religious Discrimination Bill which may have unintended consequences are examples enough.

The subsidies to religion through tax exemptions are principally a historic legacy of when secular law replaced church law.  No government has been brave enough to repeal them and in the 1960s ‘State Aid for Church schools’ was a catch cry that allowed governments to win elections as the Church claimed that parents who went to Church schools were paying twice in school fees and in taxes. When I was in Parliament I asked the then Treasurer, Michael Egan, what the cost of the Church tax exemptions were and he replied that it would be too expensive to cost these so he was not going to answer the question!

Another little gem that turned up during the NSW Upper House inquiry into Social Housing (Report No 7/53 2006) was that the NSW government was building houses on Church land.  I asked who would own the houses?  The answer was that it was a ‘joint ownership’ in which the State owned them at first but over a decade the ownership transferred to the Church, so that in 10 years the Church fully owned them.  From Day 1 the Church managed them. How were the tenants selected?  Anyone who was on the Housing waiting list could apply.  We visited one of the houses, a 3 bedroom one with a retired couple in it.  ‘Please notice the garden, they are very proud of it ‘, we were told. The lady of the house was also very proud of her Royal Doulton tea set from which we drank.  We asked how she got the house. She said, ‘We heard the Church was going to build some houses so we started going to Church and we were on the list so we got one’.  The children and grandchildren come and stay occasionally.

I asked the Church facility manager if he ever had tenant problems.  ‘Not often’ he said, ‘As we usually choose the tenants’.   ‘But we had one tenant, a blind lady with a little girl, who had a boyfriend and they used to have huge fights and disturb the neighbours’.  ‘She had to go’.  He showed us a round hole in the plaster where the boyfriend had opened a door roughly and the door handle had punched through.  The house was vacant.  Blind single Mums with boyfriend troubles get the boot. 

This level of detail is not in the final report.  No doubt the Church managed properties have fewer tenant problems than the government managed ones, as this why the Housing Dept with limited stock ends up with ghettos of social problems.

The assumptions are that the Church is basically a charity, which does work that no one else would do, and that its right to prosthetise is tolerated as the majority agree with its teachings.  We have not reached the stage of the USA where school boards try to stop science teachers teaching evolution, but the religious influence is strong in education.  I recall happily singing, ‘All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all’ and several similar verses to follow. It was many years later before I wondered if it was good that this was how it was.

The Church has tried actively in Australia to get people to fill in the census form by how they were brought up, which naturally creates a massive lag in the statistics.  I find the church attendance figures above hard to believe and wonder if new migrants of non-Christian faith have swelled the number of church goers.  In our area the Presbyterian Church, with a congregation of 2 or 3 closed and was sold a couple of decades ago.

The Christian Churches’ prestige has declined massively all over the developed world, with the paedophile scandals, and now most recently with the scandals  at the Vatican Bank, which were alluded to in David Yallop’s 1983 book ‘In God’s Name’ which alleges that Pope John Paul 1 was murdered at least in part because he tried to reform the Vatican Bank.

So it is important that those who do not believe write ‘No Religion’ on the Census form, which is to be filled out for the night of Tuesday 10 August.  We need to demonstrate how many non-believers there are, and to work towards the secular state that is supposedly guaranteed in the Constitution.

www.smh.com.au/national/lapsed-catholics-need-to-reflect-their-beliefs-in-the-census-20210730-p58edo.html?fbclid=IwAR3i2ewer_sI58oFyfjHztjKIuNJOQmLFFjeufKFhJGEAWaoSJFn1MGQOf8

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Privatised Job Services- Guess who benefits?

21 July 2021

Privatisation of job services was based on the concept that competition improves performances; hey we all run faster in a race than on a jog.

It takes the simple model and assumes that public servants do not work as hard as the lean, mean private sector workers.

I  have worked in the public service here and the UK for some years. I defy anyone to say that salaried doctors do not work hard.  How does a basic 60 hours a week, with a few hours of unpaid overtime a day and on call one night in two for ICU or ED sound?

I was at Sydney Water for 13 years.  The clerical staff worked their 35 hours, but the professional staff were mainly there until 6pm, despite only being paid to 3.30pm. The clerks knew their jobs and did their jobs.  They thought about their work, prioritised the important things and did them.  Their jobs were safe, they were honest, and criticism of them was frankly misplaced.  So was the idea that a ‘blow-in’ manager could do their jobs better than they could.

The assumption of privatisation of job seeking is that contractors would do better than the CES. The Key Performance Indicators were set up so that they go paid less for people who were easier to place and more for those who were hard to place.  So it was presumably staffed as cheaply as possible, and the business model concentrated effort where the most money could be had for the least work.  People who would have got a job without the providers help at all were money for jam.  People who were very difficult to place were not worth spending time on. So instead of an ongoing effort to help people in whatever way possible there were distorting priorities- what do you expect?  In this case you get what you pay for.

There was a similar nonsense when there was a privatised effort to lower unemployment, which was in the mid-1990s.  This drive did not come with any more jobs, so the best hope was reclassification of people who were not working. Many people were sent to me as a doctor to fill in their Disability Pension forms, as the private sector were given bonuses to get people off the dole and putting them disability pension qualified as this.  And they think that the public service does paper shuffling- they are amateurs!

After they had expanded the Disability Pension numbers a few years went by and Morrison decided that there were too may people on this, so he would make it tougher to get.  He boasted that only a third as many people were put on the disability pension in one year than had been the case the year before. I knew some of the people who could not get the disability pension.  There were not enough jobs for healthy people, let alone unhealthy ones. They were demeaned and humiliated, with supposed ‘mutual obligations’.  They had to waste their time writing job applications for jobs that they had no chance of getting, and presumably the bosses wasted time either reading them, or just binning then without bothering. 

When NSW passed legislation that Workers Compensation would only be for 5 years and then they would have to apply for a disability pension the object was to transfer the costs of injured workers from the State insurers’ premiums to the federal taxpayer.  Centrelink was having none of that. Of the people kicked off Workers Comp, only about a third managed to get a disability pension; the rest were on ‘Newstart’ applying for jobs that they had no chance of getting and on far less money than before.  Patients came to me asking for ever more elaborate reports to try to get disability pensions when they needed them.

One man, a 61 year old Middle Eastern man who had been on compo for 13 years and was carer for his disabled wife could not get a disability pension.  He had chronic back pain and a limp. His English was poor, he was illiterate in English (and possibly Arabic) with a file two inches thick.  I spent a lot of time writing a report for him.  Centrelink thanked me but said they could only pay a small amount for such reports.  So I will not do such reports again, and presumably neither will any of the other doctors- we cannot afford to work for free to fight a system with a different agenda.

Meanwhile the private providers are cream-skimming, adding another layer of costs.  Because a market system transfers money upwards to those with more economic power who can control their pieces and costs, a government and a welfare system needs to transfer wealth both to everyone in society equally by building facilities everyone can use or by direct payments to those who are unable to get jobs or who are otherwise disadvantaged.

The problem is that jobs are being offshored to low wage countries or replaced by technology.  This is national problem for high income countries.  It is a problem for the whole country, but it affects some people directly.  We are all lucky that our dollar is high and our goods cheaper because low wage countries make things cheaper. So we all should contribute to make our own country more equal.

Until we demand a fair system we will not get one.  Stopping rip offs, and paying CES people a fair wage to do a fair job is a start.

https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-employment-services-providers-profit-more-than-job-seekers-162421?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20July%2021%202021%20-%202008419727&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20July%2021%202021%20-%202008419727+CID_fbb8f126a3150e0c593a044f9ebff43b&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=The%20problem%20with%20employment%20services%20providers%20profit%20more%20than%20job%20seekers
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Collapsing Buildings

4 July 2021

The collapse of the front wing of a 12 storey Florida beach residential tower block on 24 June has sent shivers around the world.  The rest of the building, more than three quarters of it, is now to be demolished before a tropical storm comes in (ABC News today).  Another similar condominium 8km away has been evacuated (SMH- Unsafe Florida Condo evacuated 4/7/21).

It has always been assumed that tall buildings do not fall down in first world countries unless earthquakes are very bad. We need to look again.

I did a locum in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs in the early 1980s and found that a number of quite famous and prestigious buildings were being treated for concrete cancer, which is what happens when the steel reinforcing rods rust, expand and the overlying concrete flakes and falls off.  Presumably the treatment of the Eastern Suburbs buildings was successful as they are still there.  When I was at Sydney Water head office, it had a 7 storey old part from 1927 (which is still there repurposed as a hotel) and a ‘new’ building, which was 26 floors in concrete.  Though not at all pretty, (the word brutalist comes to mind), the new building had won an architectural award. A fortune was then spent removing the asbestos.  Some years later a nice big front overhang was built over the footpath outside. I discovered that this was because the concrete cancer was so bad that bits of it were falling off and might be dangerous to the citizens on the footpath outside. None of that was mentioned at the time of course; that building was demolished some years later.

When I visited Cuba in 2007 the buildings along the foreshore in Havana were all 1930s reinforced concrete two or three storeys high with concrete balconies with concrete balustrades and handrails and the sort of scrolls holding up the verandahs and around the doors.  Art deco if I am not mistaken. But they had concrete cancer bigtime and the balconies were literally falling off.  As you walked down the footpath, some areas were roped off in case there were more falls.  Some houses were condemned, which seemed just to mean that they were full of squatters rather than owners.

It is not clear whether the building falling in Florida was poorly constructed, whether it got concrete cancer, or whether the sand shifted under it.  Presumably we will know eventually.

Back here in Australia the wave of deregulation in the early 1990s led to the privatisation of building certifiers, and the distorting effect of real estate money, surely the biggest problem in Australian governance, has hugely affected building standards.  We have seen the fiasco of the Opal Towers building at Olympic Park in December 2018 (SMH 24/12/18), and Mascot Towers (SMH 15/5/19). We now have a new building inspectorate and the new NSW Building Commissioner seems aware of the problems.  But Body Corporates do not want to report their defects.  No doubt they are fully aware that if they do their property values may be totally destroyed, or at best they will be up for a fortune in repair costs if the problem is fixable.  So the answer is to hide the defect if you think the place will not fall down.

The Building Commissioner says that there are 200 apartments on the lower North Shore with ‘scandalous’ defects. 

When I was in Parliament it was drawn to my attenti0on that air-conditioning ducts often went through supposedly fire-proof walls, as did plumbing that was not sealed off around the pipes.  One of Sydney’s major apartment builders and generous political donor was named, and I asked a question as to how many building were there in the Sydney CBD that the Fire Dept. had declined to certify as safe for occupation?  I never got a quantitative response, but the company in question sued the Sydney City Council for being slow in issuing certificate of occupancy.  I guess that they thought attack was the best form of defence.  

A little known fact is that insurers will not insure buildings over 3 storeys. 

The system of private certifiers is a farce and the chickens are likely to come home to roost. How do you buy an apartment now?

Inspectors have to have the power to refuse and guaranteed employment, so that they cannot be bullied or blackmailed. Then there have to be protections against corruption.  A head of a planning dept. that I knew banned meetings in a certain coffee shop that was known as a place where developers spoke to public servants, banned meetings on a one to one basis and insisted that there be minutes of every meeting and that only what was written down was to be considered as binding.  He had lessons on ethics and acceptable behaviour, but admitted, ‘I cannot check on everything’.

www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/construction-watchdog-body-corporates-are-not-reporting-known-defects-20210630-p585hh.html

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