Doctor and activist

Notice: Undefined index: hide_archive_titles in /home/chesterf/public_html/wp-content/themes/modern-business/includes/theme-functions.php on line 233

Category: Government

Doctors for the Environment Recommend Load-Based Licencing for Polluters 27/12/16.

Today I reconnected with Dr Ben Ewald from the Hunter, who has been working with Doctors for the Environment.  He has been lobbying for a Federal EPA and wrote a submission on the load-based licensing system, which is another name for polluters paying a levy per tonne of pollutant that they produce.  There is some charge for each type of pollutant, and the charge can also be loaded for how close the pollutant is to population centres, as this relates to its health impacts. NSW has had such a scheme for years, which is fact the best developed in Australia, but NSW keeps the rate of this tax very low otherwise NSW would merely end up importing electricity from other states that pollute more but had no such tax. Hence the need for a national system. The current NSW fee is only 0.82% of the sale price per megawatt. 

Other facts were that there is 1.1 million tonnes a year of Sulphur dioxide produced in Australia, 51% from coal-fired power stations. They also produce 380,000 tonnes of Nitrous oxides, 52% of all produced annually in Australia.  Coal-fired power stations produce 8,900 tonnes of PM2.5, which is however only 29% of the national output of PM2.5, which is 31,000 tonnes.  PM2.5 is particles of 2.5 microns in diameter, which are the smallest ones measured.  There used to be a lot of emphasis on how much pollution in the air by how much weight of pollutant there was per cubic metre of air.  Then researchers realised that big particles get caught in the nose, whereas small particles continue down into the lungs and have bigger health effects. So the absolute weight of particles is not as important as the number of smaller particles. Hence the new interest in PM2.5!

It also turns out that while the coal-fired power stations are the ones with the load-based licences, the open cut mines produce the most carbon particle pollution but are exempt from fees!  That is a political decision of course.    Doctors for the Environment need to be supported as they beaver away producing the submissions and organising the facts that the governments need to be told and that the activists need to amplify!  Here is the submission:

Continue Reading

Trump’s Win- why? 9/11/16

Here is my theory.  Basically democracy in English speaking countries has been taken over by private entities.  There are only two entities who can win power in the UK, USA and Australia.  They are called political parties.  They are not in the constitution, but because they vote as a bloc, they control the parliament.  Because they are private entities they do what their donors want.  Few citizens want privatisation, but the donors to the parties do- so we get privatisation.  Few want to go to war, but for some reason the parties do, so we go to war.  We want universal health cover- Medicare, but it gets rolled back and we have to buy private health insurance, which suits that lobby.  Unemployment is rising and the government fiddles the figures and no longer takes responsibility for the problem, it just talks about ‘the market’.  What the people think or want does not actually matter.  The parties continually put their interests and power ahead of what the people want.  The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the political parties do not seem to care.  They get donations from the rich, and run campaigns to convince the poor to vote for them.

Faced with this situation and two political parties, people are accustomed to voting for the lesser of two evils, or making a protest vote, which is what they did.  Trump was anti ‘the system’, so although he was deeply flawed personally that was enough.  The Democrat Party machine had got rid of Sanders, the leftist challenger to the status quo, so it became status quo Clinton v. Non status quo Trump.  Then the polls got it totally wrong. How come?  Part of the same thing- the whole polling establishment obviously had a large segment of the population missing from their sample, but did not know it- like the government really.  So if some people did not vote for Clinton because they were disgusted and thought it would not matter, they were wrong.

But if the level of disgust in the process of government is enough to turn a US Presidential election, one must also wonder about the effect of the media.  For years, news has been replaced by infotainment.  What is important is replaced by what is titillating or exciting.  News is trivial, what is important is often not covered, particularly things like falling middle class jobs and stagnating wages.  The media is the message.  If you are not in the media, the message is that you do not matter.  But also note the rise of ignorance.   Quiz shows used to ask historic or scientific facts.  Now it is TV trivia.  And ‘shock jocks’ on commercial media are there to shock and to push products.  They do not have to be consistent or informed- just entertaining enough to rate and bring in advertising dollars.  So the non-expert, pontificating and criticising overcomes the expert discussing sensibly- how many of those are on TV?  The shock jock has become more important than the politician.  So why are we surprised when it now happens in real life?  The shock jock beat the politician.  And the pollsters got it wrong again- just like in Brexit.

What will happen with Trump in charge? He will destroy Obamacare, the relatively minor improvements made towards a universal health system, appoint Conservative Supreme Court judges and officials in public policy such as Climate Change, and boost gun ownership.  More significant changes to corporate power will take the approval of Congress and the House, now both Republican-controlled.  Obama was elected on the slogan, ’Change is possible’.  Obstruction by the Republicans ensured it was not.  Now Trump will try, but the same obstructers now have even more power and are not about to let one of their own damage their interests.  So Trump is unlikely to be a force for good unless he has unexpected foreign policy triumphs.

So what is the long-term solution to government ruling for the rich by buying political parties?  Democracy has to be taken back to the people.  The Parliament is controlled by parties and they are private entities and so can be bought by other private interests.  This has ever been the case in systems that evolved in Westminster.  It is Anglo-Saxon arrogance that makes us think that our democracy is best.  Quite simply, it isn’t. Our political power structures, like our corporate structures concentrate power at the top.  Swiss democracy involves power being moved down as low as possible with politicians merely enacting what public referenda decide, and with no opportunity for individual politicians to get long-term power structures assembled for themselves.  It is time we looked at these models and worked for constitutional change based on a real change of philosophies, priorities and power.

Continue Reading

My second Obeid story. 29/6/16

I was in NSW Parliament and an old school friend wanted to meet for old times, so we went down to the coffee shop at Sydney Hospital.  As we went in Grahame Richardson and Eddie Obeid were talking together. As we walked past Richo was facing me, Eddie had his back to us. I nodded at Richo and went past.  My friend and I had rather a long chat, but as we came back, Richo and Eddie were still there.  I nodded at Eddie.  Richo, (who is a very sociable guy whatever else he may be) said, ‘Hello Arthur’.  I was a bit surprised he even knew my name, but he is good at that sort of thing. I stopped, turned round and replied, ‘Hi Richo’.  Then a sense of devilment took me and I added, ‘What are you going to do about Beasley?’  Beasley was ALP leader at that time and was not doing very well in the polls, and some people wondered when he would be replaced.

‘We are going to replace him’ said Richo.

‘And who with? I asked.  (No harm in asking).

‘Rudd’, said Richo.

‘He’s not much chop is he? Bit of a Bible botherer?’ I replied.

‘Best we’ve got at the moment’, said Richo.

‘That may be,’ I said and toddled off.

Seven months later Rudd replaced Beasley, and the rest is history.

Richo is not a man to stab you in the back- he stabs in the front, presumably smiling and telling you it needs to be done.  Eddie was the NSW numbers man, which is why no one moved against him.  Carr and Egan kept him out of the ministry, but when Carr went, he came in. Things went bad, and eventually when things were very bad, compromise Premier Nathan Rees tried to clean up the NSW Labor party, and drop Tripodi, a mate of Eddie’s. He failed and was then thrown out.  Kristina Keneally became Premier, just before the election with a good new female image, but of course NSW Labor was not fixable or saleable by then, and Barry O’Farrell won in a landslide, only to lose office due to forgetting that he received a bottle of Penfold’s Grange Hermitage from the property developer today said to have called on Eddie.

Continue Reading

Eddie Obeid. My First Story. 28/6/16

When I first got into Parliament in 1998 Eddie offered me a lift to Parliament.  I accepted. It seemed harmless enough. He had a car with a driver and lived not far from me.  Then he offered to give me some advice about how to get on in Parliament. 

I said, ‘Fine, Go ahead’. There was no harm in listening.

He said, ‘Arthur you are in a very little party, but if you vote with the (then Labor) government, we will give you a little win just before the election and you will be re-elected’.

I said, ‘Well, Eddie, you might think we are a little party, but we have a lot of policies that are important and if you help those policies, I will vote for you and if you don’t I will vote against you. That is my job”. 

He said, ‘No Arthur, you do not understand, we are the government’. 

I said, ‘That does not really impress me, my job is to change the government’. 

He gave me a lift the next 2 times and we had virtually the same conversation. He would say, ‘Arthur, you are not really understanding,’ (meaning I was not voting the way he wanted).  ‘You are a very small party and we are the government and if you vote with us, just before the election we will give you a little win etc’..   So  on the 3rd recitation of this I wondered what a ‘little win’ might be. I had got into politics campaigning against tobacco and I knew that what was needed to save a lot of lives was smoke-free air everywhere, especially in the pubs and clubs that were the bastions of smoking, and a big health campaign against tobacco. ‘So I said, ‘Well, what I came onto parliament for was to fix the tobacco problem, you could fix that at no cost. It is just a ban, and the health campaign would pay for itself in hospital costs almost immediately.  That could be the ‘little win’ you talked about’. 

He said, ‘That is a very big thing. We could never do that’. I said, ‘Well I guess its no deal then’. He turned up the radio and we sat without talking as Ray Hadley rabbited on. 

I did not get a lift in the mornings, but I kept getting a lift with him for some time in the evenings when we finished late.  He was quite friendly and I used to meet him in his office. But one day he said to me, ‘Arthur I give you a lift home and you do not vote for us.’  There was no answer to this.  Could anyone think that a lift home should change a vote in Parliament?  Eddie obviously did.  I figured there were some people who did nothing for nothing.  After that I took a taxi voucher.  The taxpayer had to cop the extra price of an independent mind in Parliament.

Continue Reading

Using the COVID19 Crisis for Bad 29/5/20

Some years ago, my attention was drawn to a 2007 book, ‘The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’ by the Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. The idea was that if a coastal community was blown away, say by a Tsunami with a loss of owners, records etc, some coastal land could be […]

Continue Reading

Medicare- Did the Liberals try to abolish it? 21/6/16

This is a current question with Shorten claiming that the Liberals are trying to privatise it and Turnbull calling this a Labor lie. What is the truth? 

The answer is in the history of Medicare funding.  Medibank was set up by the Whitlam government and the bulk billing frees were set at 85% of the AMA ‘Most Common Fee’. The 15% was a discount but saved doctors a lot of costs and all their bad debts. They got slightly less, but the clerical and hassles saved by simply sending the paperwork, and later the computer message to the Medicare computer was felt to be a good deal.  But ever since then both major parties have not raised the Medicare same rate as inflation, in fact at about half the inflation rate.  This has resulted in the Medicare rebate being about half the AMA fees.  Specialists often will not see patients on Medicare unless they have a Health Care card, and GP practices simply cannot survive if all their patients are bulk billed.  GP practices have survived by having pathology companies rent a room where they collect bloods for a relatively high price. This has allowed the government to keep the GP Medicate rebates low. Recently the government tried to change the pathology rebates, and the companies resisted, but the treat was that the pathology companies would stop subsidising GP rental and a whole fuss would have erupted re the uneconomic nature of General Practice.  The government did not want this just before an election, so the pathology system was left as is.  But can we trust the Turnbull government? I don’t think so. A couple of other pointers:

The Emergency Departments (EDs) have recently been in the news as having a hugely increased workload and there was a request for funds, also recently seen as a question to Turnbull on Q&A.   EDs get busier if people do not go to GPs, who are far cheaper, and generally pick up problems earlier than EDs.  So the rise in ED use is likely to be a reflection of the lack of funding of GPs by Medicare.

There have been a lot of rather convoluted plans to deal with chronic illness. As the population ages, and as it gets problems with obesity and diabetes, there are more visits, more prevention is needed.  GPs are the cheapest medical intervention, so one might have expected that they would be the key element in the strategy to deal with it, perhaps supplemented by practice nurses or other slightly cheaper options based around GP-type community health centres.  But instead of this there was a bemoaning of the difficulties and lot of convoluted nonsense trying to avoid raising GP payments to a viable level.  It looked very like the object was not to find a solution to the problem, so that Private Heath insurers and the profit sector could get a look in at the problem and start to make some money.

Now we hear that there has been $5 million to look at outsourcing, just the payments part of Medicare.  Well Medicare is Just a payments system, so that is the guts of it. 

So it is very likely that the Libs want to privatise Medicare and take us to a US model of the health care. The public do not want this, but big business does, a powerful lobby in Canberra does, party political donors do, and the government can lessen the  amount it pays for health, even though the total cost will rise dramatically.

Labor also has historically a very bad record. They have allowed the Medicare rebate to fall with inflation, had a rebate ‘freeze’ of their own, and their only promise is to stop the freeze, which still leaves most doctors either unwilling in the case of specialists or unable in the case of GPs, to survive.

Continue Reading