Doctor and activist


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Category: Privatisation

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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Who Gets to be Smart?

27 June 2021

Author Bri Lee ties it to privilege in education.

We have to bring back the Gonski reforms and stop just giving money to the elite schools.

www.smh.com.au/culture/books/education-and-elitism-under-the-microscope-in-new-bri-lee-book-20210617-p581ul.html

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NDIS= Privatisation of Welfare

10 June 2021

It seems that the most sacred duty of corporations is to make as much profit as possible in the framework that they are in. So unless the framework restricts what they can charge and make, why would anyone expect them to behave differently?


It seems that the ‘not-for-profit’ sector is drawing from the same managerial pool, with the same ethos and expensive tastes.


My view is that a strong home support system with community nurses as its major foot-soldiers would be in the best position to assess need and relative need and bring in extra services as required.


The current top-heavy, privatised, hands-off NDIS model with ‘experts’ who do not know the people dropped in a short notice to dispense individualised packages rather than an overall programme is a sure recipe for rip-offs or resource misallocation.


Expect more examples of rip-offs until the model is changed.

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-10/is-ndis-provider-putting-growth-above-disability-care/100199988

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CTP Insurers Pay 6.3% of Premiums to Injured People. They keep the rest.

28 May 2021

This is a huge corporate scam. Why do people think that only little people are rip-off scammers? Also the idea that most people claims are ‘accepted’ is a nonsense. Insurers accept the claim, which means that they pay for a few GP visits and some physio. But they refuse to pay for scans that might find diagnoses. Then they refuse to pay for referrals to specialists who might need to operate. Then they refuse to pay for recommended operations. Then they use tame doctors (IMEs = Independent Medical Examiners) who either say that the condition does not need the treatment or that the problem was there before the accident so the insurer is not liable.

So the government introduced the PIC (Personal Injury Commission) to arbitrate all the claims that the insurers had refused. Now the waiting time for the PIC is over a year, which suits the insurers fine as the doctors and patients will use Medicare or private heath insurance to get the treatments and the insurers will either pay less or not have to pay at all.

If you thought the banks were bad, you have not dealt with insurers. NRMA refuses a considerably higher percentage of treatments than anyone else in my statistics, and SIRA declines to keep statistics on the ‘industry’ as a whole, and no insurer has ever been prosecuted for refusing a treatment.

This is why we need Medicare- a single, just, efficient, universal health insurance scheme.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp8R856f7cM

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NSW Politics- the Upper Hunter Farce Continues.

27 May 2021

I was going to write about the farce of the Upper Hunter by-Election, as there was plenty to say about that, so I will start there, but now there is more!

The first thing to say is that the National Party vote fell 2.8% to 31%, which is less than a third of primary votes, yet they claimed a victory!  They claimed that this was because they supported coal mining, yet a lot of farmers and those no directly depended non coal though that this was a bad idea, and it is not clear that this overblown endorsement  of coal is justified.  Labor lost 7.5% to get 21.2% and are now tearing themselves apart- see below for more.  The Shooters lost 10.1%, but this may because One Nation entered the race and got 12.3%. Independents did quite well with a total of 16.8%, with Kirsty O’Connell who was anti-coal being endorsed by Malcolm Turnbull and getting 8.8%. These are all primary votes, because almost two thirds of voters did not give preferences, being encouraged to ‘Just Vote 1’ which means that effectively the Primary vote will determine the outcome, creating a massive advantage to the major parties, which translates into a NSW gerrymander where the Major parties get a much higher percentage of the seat than they got of the primary votes.  It makes a farce of democracy .

Labor should have benefited from the fact that the by-election was rendered necessary by the incumbent Michael Johnsen being accused of raping a sex worker in Parliament House and denying it but still resigning!   But Labor looked very weak because it sits on the fence with coal mining, wanting the current coal miners vote, but also pretending to be the party of progress against climate change.  Their sitting on the fence which was disastrous in Queensland in the last Federal election was disastrous again.  They should have had a plan to transition out of coal with environmental jobs plan, but they seem incapable of such a strategy.  Arguably the State was punished for the Federal deficiency, but NSW State Labor has plenty of incompetence of its own. 

Labor, having lost in a by-election where they are supposed to increase their vote seems keen to do a lot of blood-letting.  After the years of domination by Obeid and the Right and a history of corruption and nepotism there is a very shallow talent pool.  The colourless Jodi Mckay seems to have had no impact on Gladys Berejeklian, despite scandals about sex and asset misallocation, and personal deliberate ignorance.  McKay had apparently cobbled together the numbers to survive, and people moved against her.  The plausible Chris Minns looked likely to be standing up, but John Barilaro, himself no stranger to questionable land deals in Queanbeyan, released a ‘dirt file’ to stop Minns’ ascent.  The file was called ‘Why Chris Minns and Jamie Clements can never run the NSW Labor Party’.  Jamie Clements was accused of sexual assault by a former staffer, and of taking improper donations from a Chinese property developer, Mr Huang.  Presumably there was also something in the file of substance about Minns also, as he resigned from Shadow Cabinet.  It might be noted that he was Shadow Transport Minister yet has not had his voice heard despite the fact that the Liberal strategy of funding underground freeways and selling them as monopolies to the private sector seems to have come from the Los Angeles town planners of the 1960s who recommended getting rid of trams to have private cars as the main means of transport, with a dash of Thatcherite privatisation thrown in. 

Labor’s corruption scandals have sapped their talent and seemingly discouraged good people.  Carmel Tebbutt, John Watkins and Graham West were very good people who resigned before they might have been expected to. 

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Noam Chomsky’s 10 Media Manipulation Strategies

10 May 2021

Noam Chomsky, one of the most important intellectuals in life today, has drawn up the list of 10 media manipulation strategies.Give 5 minutes and you won’t regret it.If only to expand your knowledge.

1-The strategy of distractionThe primordial element of social control is the distraction strategy which consists of diverting the public’s attention from major problems and the changes decided by political and economic elites, through the flooding technique or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public from becoming interested in essential knowledge in the area of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. Keeping the audience’s attention deviated from real social problems, imprisoned by themes without real importance.Keeping the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think, back to the farm like other animals (quoted in the text ′′ Silent weapons for quiet wars ′′).

2-Creating problems and then offering the solutions.This method is also called a ′′ problem-reaction-solution “. It creates a problem, a ′′ situation ′′ planned to cause a certain reaction from the public, with the aim that this is the source of the measures they want to accept. For example: letting urban violence intensify or intensify, or organize bloody attacks, with the aim of the public being those requiring security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Also: create an economic crisis to make social rights demotion and dismantle public services accept as a necessary evil.

3-The Strategy of Graduation.To make an unacceptable measure accepted, you only need to apply it gradually, to dropper, for consecutive years. This is how radically new socioeconomic conditions (neoliberism) were imposed during the decades of the 80 s and 90 s: minimum state, privatisation, precariousness, flexibility, mass unemployment, wages that no longer guarantee dignified incomes , so many changes that would have brought about a revolution if they were implemented at once.

4-The Strategy of Deferring.Another way to get an unpopular decision accepted is to present it as ′′ painful and necessary “, gaining public acceptance, in the moment, for future application. It is easier to accept a future sacrifice than an immediate sacrifice. First, because effort isn’t that taken immediately. Second, because the public, the mass, always tends to naively hope that ′′ everything will be better tomorrow ′′ and that the required sacrifice could be avoided. This gives the audience more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it resigned when the time comes.

5-Reach to the public like children.Most advertisements directed at the large audience use speeches, arguments, characters and a particularly childish intonation, many times close to weakness, as if the viewer was a few years old creature or a mental moron. When you try to deceive the viewer the more you tend to use a childish tone. Why? Why? ′′ If someone addresses a person as if they are 12 or under, then based on suggestionability, they will probably tend to a response or reaction even without a critical sense like that of a 12 person. years or less ′′ (see ′′ Silent Weapons for quiet wars ′′).

6-Using emotional aspect much more than reflection.Take advantage of emotion it’s a classic technique to provoke a short circuit on a rational analysis and finally the critical sense of the individual. Additionally, the use of emotional register allows the unconscious access door to implant or inject ideas, desires, fears and fears, compulsions, or induce behaviors.

7-Keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity.Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used for their control and slavery.′′ The quality of education given to lower social classes must be as poor and mediocre as possible, so that the distance of ignorance that plans between lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to fill from the lower classes “.

8-Stimulating the public to be complacent with mediocrity.Pushing the audience to think it’s fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and ignorant…

9-Strengthening self-guilt.Making the individual believe that he is only the culprit of his disgrace, because of his insufficient intelligence, skills or efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual devalues himself and blames himself, which in turn creates a depressive state, one of whose effects is the inhibition of his action. And without action there is no revolution!

10-Knowing individuals better than they know themselves.Over the past 50 years, science’s rapid progress has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those possessed and used by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology, and applied psychology, the ′′ system ′′ has enjoyed advanced knowledge of the human being, both in its physical and psychological form. The system has managed to learn better about the common individual than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exercises greater control and greater power over individuals, greater than that which the same individual exercises over himself.

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Skilled Migrants Needed as we stopped training people.

16 April 2021

I note in Australia’s recovery, we now need skilled migrants. Why? Because we stopped supporting TAFE and gave the money to dodgy private providers.

At the other end of the pile we need unskilled migrants to pick our fruit because the wages are so low that Australians do not want to work for them.

Where are young Australians in all this? Are our kids going to unis with no jobs at the end of their courses?  In India excess doctors drive taxis.  Marx said that the capitalists were more loyal to their class than their country.  Are we for a fair go for all Australians of not?  A living wage?  Or are skilled migrants who settle more likely to vote Liberal?

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-15/skilled-migrants-missing-link-australia-covid-economic-recovery/100069670

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Amateur Hour in Management and Politics.

16 April 2016

When friends discuss why the world of politics seems to be going downhill, they mention that there seems to be no respect for knowledge any more.  Because information is so available it is not valued.  But this is not the key.  The problem seems to stem from two sources;

Firstly the two wars last century were over markets and at Bretton Woods at the end of WW2 the key to preventing wars thought to be free markets, where there would be unrestricted trade and countries could rise on fall on their relative advantages, or harder work.  The second item was the notion of neo-liberalism where the duty of a company was to make as much money as possible, with other objectives being looked after by someone else.  But as free trade progressed like a monopoly game multinational companies became more powerful than governments, so there was no one to stop the accumulation of wealth and power.  Power and wealth became the important items.  If you had these, clearly you would know what to do.

A number of small stories often give insights into changing priorities.  When I was at school and aged about 11 another boy, Geoff, went on a trip to the USA, a rare thing to do at that time.  We eagerly asked him what it was like over there.  He said, ‘Money just stands up and talks over there.  If you have money and you say something everybody listens’.  What he meant was that it was not because the rich person actually knew anything.

When I worked at Sydney Water, there were 17,000 employees and there was had a program to separate storm water and sewage in the pipes in the old part of Sydney, where they had all been the same.  There were employment programs for the long-term unemployed, disabled people and even ex-prisoners.  There were quality control units and a well-respected apprentice training school with about 220 people that produced plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The staff worked their way up the hierarchy so everyone knew their job and the tasks that they were supervising.  In the early 1980s these was a major change.  Sydney Water was reclassified as a State owned enterprise. It was to be ‘right sized’ which was the euphemism for downsized to about 3,000 people.  All functions not immediately necessary were stopped.  No pipe replacement programs, fix them when they burst. No apprentice training. No quality control- (has to be out-sourced). No printing. No computerised land mapping program (a world first, given to the Land Titles Office and later privatised) and the government was entitled to a ‘dividend’ from the enterprise which was about a billion dollars a year from all the salaries saved and work not done.  There was a game of musical chairs which went on for about a decade with new management structures, each with fewer places in it, where people repeatedly applied for jobs that had slightly different titles but which amounted to what they had done before.  But more than this there was incredible nepotism and people who knew about money or were politically favoured replaced those who knew about pipes and water.  Deskilling was on a massive scale. Then there was a project to look at salary relativities, which seemed to come to the conclusion that the salary should relate to how many people you managed.  Professionals were hard to fit into this framework, so it was opined that they should get less, but in order to get them at all, there had to be some consideration of what they were paid outside the organisation.  As a professional I was also high enough up the hierarchy to get ‘management training’.  It seemed that the key objective was to create a new culture in the organisation, and the main element in this was the destruction of the old culture, which was naturally assumed to be inferior to the new vision of the new management.   Workshops were held to define our objectives and visions. The silly old guard had thought that it was to provide water and take away the pooh.

This seems to be what has happened throughout the entire public service.  Lifetime employment has gone, and the gradual salary increments that made public servants content to work for less because they had lifetime security of employment and respect for the niche knowledge that they had developed. 

Now the two overwhelming values are power and money. They are assumed to go together.  Money buys political power, and political power gives control of large amounts of money.  So part of this new values hierarchy is the assumption that other values are lesser.  Public interest knowledge as stored in the public service, the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the research community are run down as the new breed of consultants rise. The consultants are chosen by their masters for their political or economic orientation and have to come up with solutions that fit with the views of their masters lest they not get their next job.  It is an incestuous and nepotistic system where ideology and opinion have displaced long-term experience and expertise.

Some years ago, as a NSW Democrat MP, I went to a YADS (Young Australian Democrats) conference in Canberra. The YADs were enthusiastic young people interested in politics, and some of them were lucky enough to work in Parliamentary offices.  On the Saturday they hospitably asked me to come to a party that they were attending.  I felt a bit old for the group, but they insisted.  It turned out that the Party was at a Liberal staffer’s house.  No one took much notice of the old guy in the corner sipping his beer, so I observed a group of very privileged young people telling stories of their exploits in the corridors of power. The striking part of the stories was the extent to which they were merely playing a chess game.  They were the goodies, Labor were the baddies and the whole discussion was about winning. There was no policy content at all. The issue was whether we won or not.  John Howard was Prime Minister and I was left with the overwhelming feeling that power was in the hands of those who had neither knowledge nor respect for the responsibility that they were carrying.

So I was interested to read this article by Jack Waterford, which traces the replacement of the public service by political staffers, ambitious non-experts with a lot of ideological baggage and little time for long-term expertise. 

The replacement of respect for knowledge with respect only for power and money may be the reason for the decline in decision-making in our political and management systems, and may yet be the cause of the decline of Anglo civilisation.

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Politicisation of Vaccine Rollout has caused the Problems

13 April 2021

Scott Morrison’s objective was to have a low risk strategy. He got the States to handle the COVID19 crisis, while he merely took the credit for its success. Then he wanted to have a successful vaccination programme, and go quickly to an election. He announced a lot of vaccine deals, waving a chequebook with our money to put us high in the world’s vaccine queue. (Tough luck poorer countries with much more cases).

But the deals were soft, the Qld vaccine had problems with false positives for the HIV/Aids test, and it seems the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is not quite as effective as the others, and had a few side effects. So his loudly-touted intervention has just made him look ineffective.

The problems in the health system with the overlapping Federal/State responsibilities and cost-shifting, and the starving of Medicare with subsidies to the private system have all been swept under the carpet in the crisis. But the government’s new dynamic, which is to ignore good advice and treat everything as a political problem, with Morrison giving advice on every subject from weather forecasts, to fires to vaccines is part of the replacement of knowledge by politics, which is a problem in many areas.

Here is an analysis of this fiasco by Steven Duckett, one of Australia’s leading health economists.

https://theconversation.com/4-ways-australias-covid-vaccine-rollout-has-been-bungled-158225

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