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:
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.