20 February 2021
I like to think that my credentials as a mental health advocate are pretty good. I was responsible for the NSW Parliamentary Select Committee of Inquiry into Mental Health in December 2001 which reported in 2003. The result of this inquiry was an increase in the mental health budget in the following year of $320 million, a new accounting system so that the money could not be transferred by hospital administrations to other areas, and publicity which led to a similar Senate Inquiry in Canberra. This reported in 2006 and led to psychologists being put on Medicare. (Not that my contribution was noticed by the Parliamentary press gallery).
One of the elements of recognising mental health is having it treated the same as physical health.
But I am also a tennis fan, not a tragic, but a fan. In the quarter finals of the Australian Open, Ash Barty, Australia’s favourite and No 1 seed was eliminated by Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. This might not be remarkable were it not for the fact that the game had Barty winning easily until Muchova took a 10 minute medical timeout. After this, the game and momentum swung totally Muchova’s way and she won. Muchova admitted that she wasn’t injured, she just took time off to get her head together. Obviously she did that, and Barty was sufficiently disconcerted to lose the match. The public waited the 10 minutes and the TV filled the break as usual.
Barty was magnanimous in defeat, saying that Muchova had the right to take a medical break, but one has to ask whether taking a 10 minute break to compose one’s head if one is not doing well in a match will become the new norm Hey, there is no rule against it, and now a precedent for it!
It will be hard for a tournament referee to say to a player, ‘I do not accept you injury, get back on and play’, but what is the alternative? This is a bad precedent. This is not mental illness. Any suggestions how it should be dealt with?
6 February 2021
We all saw the callous and incompetent saga of Robodebt, where the tax database and the welfare database were imperfectly matched, the welfare recipients were accused of understating their incomes and put in the unenviable position of having to prove that they system was wrong, as their support payments were cut to below survival level.
Now we see some companies who are doing very well getting Jobkeeper and being asked politely if they would mind paying it back.
Nick Scali, the furniture retailer has done very well out of the lockdown as people still at home and working, with forced saving on their out of home recreations have upgraded their furnishings. His profit has risen 99% to $40 million, and the share price from $3 to $10.51 in the last 12 months. The dividends are up 60%. Nick Scali as the major shareholder with 13% of the company will make $4.4 million personally. The company has received $3.5 million in Jobkeeper payments, so Labor MP Andrew Leigh has asked that it be repaid. Of course, Scali has done nothing illegal and has taken money that companies were entitled to. But the Government which is so careful and niggardly when it comes to poorer people getting money is totally silent on this situation. They are very thorough when it comes to giving out Jobseeker or any type of pension, yet seem unable to restrict much more generous handouts to business, let alone having a mechanism to get it back. The stockmarket profit reporting season is just starting so we are likely to see many more examples of this.
The only explanation I can find is ‘For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ — in Matthew 25:29, Revised Standard Version.
As NSW builds more prisons (SMH 28/12/20- 1000 bed prison at Camellia) and inequality grows apace, it is interesting to look at what penalties are given for what. Here is an article about a multimillion dollar owner of aged care homes where 38 residents died of COVID.
He was charged with 101 counts of rorting a government taxi scheme that subsidised fares for disabled people, pleaded guilty to three to the value of $3000 and got no conviction and 6 months community service.
His nursing home is being investigated and faces a class action on behalf of residents. He resigned when the media drew attention to his lavish lifestyle. His lawyer warns against defaming his client.
The full story is below
With a justice system like this it is hard to see how we could possibly need more gaols.
Some have said that the ICC is where the big countries prosecute small dictators. The ICC has, in a 184 page document declined to prosecute British soldiers for war crimes in Iraq. They have also declined to say that the 2nd Iraq war was illegal. To do this they have quoted British rationale about the need to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMDs and ignored that fact that the weapons inspectors said that they have not found any, the Iraqis were cooperating better and that they wanted more time.
They use British names for Iraqi places, refer to the Iraqis as ‘insurgents’ in their own country and took refuge in the fact that the ICC does not have to investigate war crimes if the country that committed them is itself investigating. They then look at how the British investigations have gone, which is actually nowhere.
The author of this piece says he was a great fan of the ICC, but now concludes that it has no credibility. It is not a short piece, but this can be excused as it summarises the 184 pages of the ICC’s decision not to prosecute.
It is sad, but unsurprising that there is no credible enforcement of international law at an individual level, or in statements as to the actions of countries.
Australians looking at the riots happening in the US may be tempted to feel smug that it does not happen here. The riots don’t, but there has been a long history of Aboriginal deaths in custody, seemingly unchanged by a number of Royal Commissions. This is long overdue to be addressed, and is the peak of the tendency to criminalise our social problems.
You might argue that the policeman who tripped a 16 year old to arrest him did so because the youth threatened to break his jaw, but you cannot argue with the many deaths and inquiries’ findings.
We need to put our own house in order.