Doctor and activist


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Category: Justice

Domestic Violence Becomes a Workers Comp Issue 8/6/20

The NSW Supreme Court has held that the children of a worker killed at home by her mentally ill partner in a domestic violence incident can have compensation.

It is good that the issue of domestic violence gets publicity and that the children get compensation. But it raises the issue of whether employers are seriously able to assess the domestic situation of all employees and then whether they can ever hope to intervene in them.  Employers ran a long campaign not to have to pay for journey accidents, people injured on the way to work, on the basis that it was not a risk that they could control, yet which potentially might cause a big change in their insurance premiums and thus costs.  If we want our employers to be concentrating on making their businesses efficient and looking for hazards in the workplaces that they do control, it is slightly dubious public policy to have them sniffing around about employees’ home life.  This case is slightly unusual in that the employer was effectively a partnership bet ween the couple rather than having a distant employer, and the company had been deregistered which suggests some dysfunction  But the money accessed was Workers Compensation insurance and this will affect premiums and potentially other work situations.

It is true that a lot needs to be done about the discovery and action on domestic violence.  It is also true that mentally ill people need to live somewhere and that their carers are at risk.  Judges faced with people in dire need of help such as the children in this situation search for answers, and the Workers Compensation insurance scheme is a source of such funds. But the precedent set is not a good one.

The same principle applies when a baby gets into trouble at birth and has long-term adverse effects. If the obstetrician is found to have erred, there is a lot of money to give the unfortunate infant.  If he or she is not found to have erred, there is no money for the infant.  So now the premiums for obstetricians are very high and some retire in consequence.  4 Corners ran a show on this issue some time ago and it turned out that one doctor was responsible for about 60% of the problem births in Western Australia and had declined to speak to the show. Wow- go after him!  Who was he?  The Professor at the biggest teaching hospital of course.  Most of the difficult cases in the State were admitted under his name, and the staff of the hospital did their best with these cases. 

What is needed is a compensation system that is no fault.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes have small consequences and sometimes little mistakes have big consequences.  With systems, it is not usually one person who makes a mistake, there are miscommunications, lack of clarity who was responsible, lack of availability of something or someone.  Accident causation theory is now an academic discipline, but the legal profession has not really caught up, let alone the political system.

A lot needs to be done about domestic violence, but I am not sure that making it a workers compensation issue will do anything more than push it into the public eye and help these children.  Employers and insurers will run a successful political campaign to change the law to exclude it.  I am not often on the side of Workers Compensation insurers, but a better solution has to be found.

www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/no-longer-a-private-matter-employer-held-responsible-for-family-violence-20200605-p54zy1.html

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Aboriginal Deaths in Custody are not far from the US situation. 5/6/20

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.

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/04/morrison-says-australia-should-not-import-black-lives-matter-protests-after-deaths-in-custody-rally?CMP=share_btn_fb

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Housing Stimulus: More Middle Class Welfare 5/6/20

Successive governments have used the building industry to pump up the economy on credit.  How so?  For decades the tax deduction on negatively geared real estate has made housing a favoured investment. It has been the no-brainer way to make money. You borrow to own a property, and as long as it is your, all the capital gain is yours.  So the lesser fraction that you own, the greater the percentage rise in your total assets.  And since you save on tax and gain rent, it is far better than shares or other assets. If you ask to borrow 90% to buy shares, no bank would lend you 90%. They would fall about laughing, and you would be taking a big risk.  If you wanted to borrow 90% of real estate, no problem- all perceived as low risk.  How come?  Because Australia’s private debt is rising and is now the highest in the world.  This little Ponzi scheme has a cost. We have the best houses, which are the most expensive relative to our incomes, and we have a huge national private debt, which means that we pay interest to foreign banks and have no money to develop and own our own country.  Like all Ponzi schemes, it is OK as long as you sell out before the bubble pops.  The older generation are doing this, cashing out as the younger generation takes up the huge loans that are now necessary.

The tax department got less money to create this mess, so public housing was not built, and there is a huge shortage of public housing.  Because prices are so high there is also a problem in affordable housing as wages in the real world have stagnated as globalisation allows jobs to go offshore to be done more cheaply by third world people.  The negative gearing thing amounts to middle class welfare, where those who had one house were able to buy more, and those that did not merely saw rents and prices rise.  Labor tried to address this and lost the election.

Now we have a recession, worsened by the COVID-19 crisis and the taxpayer has to step in, making more debt for the future.  So what projects to spend the money on?  More middle class welfare! Those who already have $150,000 to improve their house get another $25,000 from the future taxpayer, the young people of today.

It is merely another example of the Morrison government’s lack of commitment to a fair go for all. This could be a huge opportunity to build social housing to help those who have been left behind.  Is the excuse that the projects are not ‘shovel-ready’?  The government could pay for the huge outstanding renovations and repair bill on the public housing, which has been neglected for 30 years.  Surely these repair lists on yellowed paper could be found and actioned.

Morrison governs for his voters, not for the country as a whole. His policies increase inequality, which stores discord for the future.  This last effort will further the Matthew Effect, named after the biblical quote, ‘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’.

— Matthew 25:29, RSV.

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/03/morrison-government-to-offer-25000-grants-to-help-build-and-renovate-homes

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Crimeless Victims 22/12/19

We hear of ‘victimless crimes’ like urinating in a park when all the toilets are shut, or jaywalking.  Every now and then a politician wants kudos for actually stating that they are not going to prosecute (and they are going to save on legal system time). But more important are ‘crimeless victims’ where the neglect […]

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Secret Trial of Witness K- East Timor Whistleblower

25 March 2020 The trial of Witness K, the whistleblower who told of Australia’s bugging of the East Timorese Cabinet room during the maritime border negotiations has been going on in secret in Canberra. What has Australia come to? This is what we heard Russia did during the Cold War. The government does dirty deals […]

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Power, Injury and Awards

26 November 2016 Power, Injury and Awards.  I work in medicine, treating mostly third party motor vehicle injuries and workers compensation injuries.  There are much fewer of the latter because there are less employees.  Many people working as couriers are ‘self employed’ contractors.  One man had to pay $75,000 for the right to deliver parcels […]

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