Doctor and activist


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Tag: COVID19

Nuclear Submarines- a horrendous folly to win an election?

30/9/21

Many of us despair at the Morrison government;  whether it is the callous approach to asylum seekers, Robodebt and welfare generally or the naked favouring of their constituency where JobKeeper payments are not required to be repaid.  The total breakdown in ethical standards where public moneys are rorted with grants to electorates that will favour them at the polls and might even be the reason that they were re-elected. The dismantling of public service capabilities and intellectual resources with the granting of private contracts for welfare payments with the Indue card, given to Liberal-friendly companies or to compliant companies to run detention centres or Great Barrier reefs research. The lack of support for TAFE and trade skills, replaced by skilled migrants on visas that have no Medicare or income support when they became stranded, the casualisation of university teaching positions with and no support or quarantine for foreign students despite the fact that education is our 3rd biggest export industry.  It just goes on and on.

The mismanagement of the COVID epidemic in terms of being unwilling to build quarantine facilities to allow overseas citizens to return home and the lack of purchase of vaccines, and their desultory distribution practices is the current big issue that is upsetting their popularity.  They were willing to throw money at JobSeeker when it went to big business, but now that it continues and has to go to individuals they want to end welfare and will stop payments as soon as vaccination rates hit 70% of the over 16s, which is only 57% of the population.  As I have said on this page before, this is a level of irresponsibility beyond all else, justified by the idea that the economy has to go on and only the aged and sick will die.  The divisiveness and callousness of this leaves one breathless, and as it plays out it is likely to be the end of the Morrison government.

So Morrison, the master media manipulator needs a very major distraction. China is asserting itself, which is clearly a problem, but the demonising of it seems very convenient for Morrison.  The French submarine contract was not good, but it seems that the nuclear one is worse. 

We were going to get 12 conventional submarines at a cost of $90 billion, the first coming in 2034.  Now we have dumped the French contract and get nuclear submarines at a cost of either  $3.45 billion each for the US Virginia model or $2.83 billion for the UK Astute model (2018 prices).  The delivery dates are likely to be around 2040, so our old Collins class ones will be a long way past their use-by date.  

The noted defence commentator, Hugh White had a very critical piece in The Saturday Paper 18-24/9/21, teased with ‘The old plan was crazy, the new plan is worse’.    Two ex-Prime Ministers, Keating and Turnbull were both highly critical of the decision in the SMH of 22/9/21 and 29/9/21 respectively. Turnbull even spoke at the National Press Club on the subject. www.smh.com.au/world/asia/morrison-is-making-an-enemy-of-china-and-labor-is-helping-him-20210921-p58tek.html

The deal, dubbed AUKUS, was announced by Morrison with US President Joe Biden and UK PM, Boris Johnson.  One could hardly believe this was not some sort of parody. The old Anglo alliance, rooted in history, but totally at variance from the image that Australia since Keating had been trying to project, a country engaging with Asia. 

Boris Johnson wrote a hagiographic biography of Churchill and fancies himself as a latter day Churchill, which is absurd hubris. The UK has no power ‘East of Suez’ as was demonstrated when 2 British warships sent to defend Singapore in 1941 were promptly sunk by Japanese aircraft.  Have they done anything significant here since?

The US is playing a far more strategic hand.  Australia has been a lap dog to the Anglosphere for all its history and this changed from the UK to the US in WW2.  Even in the absence of reasonable Peace lobby in Australia one might have hoped that the debacle of the Afghanistan war would temper our enthusiasm to go all the way with the USA, but it seems not.  The US is preoccupied with China. It wanted a base in Australia.  It may be hubris for the US to set up bases to try to contain China, but that is still where their thinking is at present.   Why would Australia need submarines to go to China except as part of a US force?

Gillard was the first Prime Minister to allow US troops to be stationed in Darwin, but the US wants a submarine base.  Australia may not have been willing to let the US have such a base as it would make us a nuclear target.  So the answer was simple.  Promise to sell us some nuclear submarines.  We would then need a nuclear submarine base and to maintain our subs.  Presto, Australia is paying for nuclear submarines and a base that our ally can use.  The US will not be able to contain China, which will sadly be demonstrated when China decides to take Taiwan.  China wants to be the dominant power in the world, and it seems that the world is going to have to get used to this idea.  China is likely to want to dominate economically and technologically, so the invasion of Australia is unlikely to be necessary and we should retain our economic and technical sovereignty, but rely  on diplomacy to look after our interests.

The French conventional submarines were as fast underwater as the nuclear ones will be, but have a lower range and lower costs. The French version of these is nuclear, so one of the reasons that they were chosen was that they could be re-engined at any time with nuclear propulsion with a lower-grade uranium, which was not weapons grade.    Naturally they had a lesser range, but if the object is to defend Australia, this may not have been a problem.  Nuclear submarines can stay underwater indefinitely, but their reactors produce a lot of heat, so if they are still they leave an area of hot water, which either is or will be visible to a satellite.  So the idea that they are less vulnerable to attack may not be correct.  It is not impossible that in future submarines will be as vulnerable to satellites, missiles and drones as battleships were to aircraft in WW2.

In terms of the perception of Australia oversea there are considerable downsides to the deal. 

The Chinese representative said to Stan Grant on China Tonight on ABC TV 20/9/21 that the submarines would make Australia a nuclear target. Grant seemed indignant and said that there were no nuclear weapons- it was just the propulsion.  Presumably the Chinese representative was referring to the fact that there would be a US nuclear submarine base on Australian soil, and he assumed that Grant knew that.  It appeared that Grant had not thought it through. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/china-tonight/series/0/video/NC2130H008S00

The Indonesians are concerned that we have long-range submarines that we do not really need for our coastal defence and that we are firmly partisan in the US-China standoff and have brought the conflict into their area, quite apart from any aggressive intentions that we might harbour against them. The old colonial ties are all renewed- what sort of country are we, Asian or Anglo?

The French are naturally furious, and they are very influential in the EU while we are on the verge of a free trade treaty. This is very poor politics on a very big trade issue.  We have unilaterally torn up a major deal. How reliable are we?

Morrison has been seen in happy snaps with the US and UK leaders. He is appealing to his Anglophile base. He thinks this parody of statesmanship can be spun into an election victory, some say as soon as November, before the COVID debacle reaches its final stage.  If Morrison can win again it will be the last straw in taking Australia down  a dismal and unconsidered path.

www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/clumsy-deceitful-and-costly-turnbull-slams-handling-of-nuclear-submarine-decision-20210928-p58ve3.html

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Tasmania Wants 90% of Adults Double Vaccinated before Opening the Border

30 September 2021

Here is a realistic assessment of how to stop an epidemic if you have the choice. Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein has some modelling coming. Bear in mind that 20% of the Tasmanian population are under 16 year of age, so if no kids are vaccinated the actual rate is still only 70%, not 90%. Even you assume that kids will not get sick, which is actually not a reasonable assumption, there are 30% who can spread COVID and 10%, the adults, who are quite vulnerable.

In reality, it is hard to get vaccination rates over 90%, though Blacktown LGA has 95% with first jabs, and presumably Tasmania would also being trying to vaccinate 12-15 year olds and younger if possible.

Meanwhile Morrison is stopping welfare payments to States when they get over 70%, which is actually starving people into unlocking. Even Conservative NSW Treasurer Perrottet is adding some welfare payments from the State budget.

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-29/tasmania-wont-reopen-covid-border-before-90pc-vaccination/100500844?sf249931972=1&fbclid=IwAR2NqGfeDQA9rGcnm7XQ6iLiDGK7XH1PNkRsjYs3uL15J31hP7qLbDsby88

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Victorian Government Bites the Bullet and Mandates Vaccination

22 September 2021

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.

www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/here-s-why-no-jab-no-entry-is-not-discrimination-20210920-p58t2v.html?fbclid=IwAR2jrbfGJsq6fD-J-unnAn12j9UyWvdk-do5BpE23bI0z0gQ8kknq5nc39c

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What Has Gone Wrong in Australia?

8 September 2021

John Quiggin gives a good, insightful summary in The Monthly.

www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2021/september/1630418400/john-quiggin/dismembering-government?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021&utm_content=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021+CID_77319af0620e0ea97965a0e5af6e7e60&utm_source=EDM&utm_term=The Monthly#mtr

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Please Sign the Petition to stop the COVID Lockdown Ending Prematurely

4 September 2021

The Governments, Federal and NSW State, seem hell bent on ending the COVID lockdown.

Morrison stuffed up the vaccine and Gladys stuffed up the lock-down.

Now Morrison is talking about ‘Freedom’ and ‘One Australia’ showing that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.  Gladys is talking about the need for more deaths as if it is an inevitable consequence of the Delta strain and that nothing can be done to mitigate the situation . She is talking about bed numbers and trying to conjure ICU nurses out of thin air.  The fact that the State public hospital system is always at full capacity with beds in corridors in ED is well known to any health professional who has any dealings with the system and is about to bite us big time.

So what should be done?  The lockdown can only buy time to improve the vaccine rollout, but this is still very much worth doing.  Figures from NSW that I posted last week suggested that vaccination reduced the chance of being in ICU by about 97%. Vaccinated people can still get and transmit COVID as it seems that the antibodies are not in secretions, so it is not until the virus invades that the body starts to fight it.  But as the disease is milder, vaccinated people will cough less, spread  the virus for less time and be less sick themselves.

NSW has given about 7.2 million doses to a population of 8.2 million people.  For everyone in NSW to have 2 doses it would take about 16 million doses.  If we assume that about 4% of people are anti-vaxxers and want to take their chances, and 16% are children under 12 for whom the vaccines are not approved,  then 80% of the total population should be vaccinated, which will take about 13 million doses.  At the current rate of a million doses a week, that should take about 6 weeks from now.

The government already has a huge debt and will avoid a lot of future costs by prevention rather than ‘cure’.  A support package for those who cannot work is naturally needed also. There was a full page ad in the SMH last week with a number of businesses urging the Government to stick to the opening up timetable of the Doherty Report.  Given that the Doherty Report recommendations were based on a far lower number of cases and it was assumed that what cases there were could be traced and were not Delta variants, the report needs to be reconsidered. Perhaps because it is from a reputable research organisation and that it is a long read it has not been seriously challenged, The Government has used it to try to justify the early opening.

One of the disappointing things in my life has been the revelation that some people really do not care a fig about anyone as long as they are personally OK.  I was initially shocked to find that the Tobacco industry really did not care how many people died as long as they could make money.  I found that the asbestos industry was the same, and then that most businesses skimp on safety on the principle that ‘we take the money, you take the risk’  There has also been the worrying trend, which I still link to Harvard management theory  in the 1980s that managers can manage anything, and just need to buy any expertise that they do not have.  Often that do not even know what they do not know, so they neglect to ask, do not know who or what to ask, or find the advice inconvenient.    And sometimes they put ads in the paper.

We also cannot assume that those in Government know or care or that their primary concern will be for the welfare of their constituents.  Presumably their unlikely re-election is what they are focused on.

So please sign the petition to stop the early opening- it currently all we can do.

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Irresponsible COVID Policies will Destroy the Federal and NSW Liberals

29 August 2021

Ok. I am making a prediction.  The totally irresponsible Liberal COVID policies will destroy both the Morrison government and the NSW Liberals.

Why?  The strategy of unlocking with only 70% of over 16 adults vaccinated is totally irresponsible.  It is true that less children will get a bad infection and die, but some will- perhaps 1 in 100,000.  But if a few million children go back to school, that is still a significant number.  The unvaccinated children will also get infected and go home to their families and infect them. Every parent who has had kids start at day-care knows how many more colds they got that year. 

As far as the adults are concerned, if there are still 30% of them unvaccinated, that is a huge number to make an epidemic.  The hospitals always manage with very slim margins of capacity.  How many beds are in corridors and how many trolleys in ED normally? Quite a few. Now they are stopping non-urgent surgery, but these cases are not trivial, and cancer patients may well die of their delays.

But they key point is that the hospital system will be overwhelmed by cases and that those cases  would not be necessary if the government held its nerve and  continued the lockdown until all those who wanted the vaccine had it- upwards of 95% perhaps.  If NSW is vaccinating a million people a week and has 8 million people needing 2 doses each, that is 16 weeks, less the fact that almost half the adult doses has been given.  12 weeks might be a realistic estimate, better if the vaccine can be hurried further.  As far as the children are concerned, I recall in the 1950s when polio vaccine came- we were simply lined up in the school corridor at lunch time and everyone was done.

The cost of vaccination compared to the cost of hospitalisations does not bear thinking about. It is also probably that the cost of the hospitalisations and time lost will exceed the cost of a decent home support system- but Morrison will not even consider this, still talking about tax cuts before the election, as the national debt balloons to record levels.  Do the rich really need this?

Morrison also wants to force states that have almost no COVID to open up. Qld and WA, having isolated themselves, controlled COVID and given themselves quite a remarkably normal quality of life do not want to be forced to open to NSW and Victoria, where COVID is frankly out of control.  Morrison needs Qld seats to get re-elected.  If he forces Qld to open and the pandemic spreads there as it will, his chances of re-election is nil.

Gladys Berejeklian is now talking about vaccinations, trying to distract attention from the number of cases and is systematically getting us used to the idea that since we now can never get to zero cases, we have to open up, and might as well do it now as later.  This is not true, if now we are not vaccinated, and later we will be.  She is blamed for the Delta virus escape as she did not mandate vaccination for limo drivers who ferried people from the airport to the quarantine hotels and then was slow to lock down Bondi when the infection escaped in June. So now to say it is all inevitable and unlock with what amounts to a very low vaccination rate is likely to lead to very big epidemic, the health system being overwhelmed, a lot of unnecessary deaths and yes, Gladys losing the election.

And Gladys does not like Morrison either, so she had better throw him under a bus before he does it to her.

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COVID Vaccine Works!

29 August 2021

An anti-vaxxer who keeps posting on my Facebook page also keeps demanding proof that the vaccine does more harm than good.  I told her to do her own research as it is really too obvious.

I looked at the figures for NSW today and they made the point very clearly.  There are 126 people in ICU of whom 13 have had one dose of vaccine and 1 has had 2 doses. The percentage of NSW people over 16yo unvaccinated are 37.3%, one vaccination jab 29% and two vaccinations 33.8%.

If vaccine did not work, the percentage of people in ICU would be the same in all 3 groups. This would mean unvaccinated would be 47 (37.2% of 126), one vaccine jab 37 (29% of 126) and two vaccine jabs 43 (33.8% of 126).  But the numbers are: unvaccinated 113, one jab 12, two jabs 1.

So those with 2 jabs have only I person in ICU instead of 43, and those with one jab have 12 instead of 37.  So the chance of being in ICU has been reduced by 42/43 (97.7%) with 2 jabs, and 25/37 (67.6%) with one jab.  This is just a one day sample (yesterday in NSW), but the results are very significant. The data is from NSW Health via Juliette O’Brien’s website.

And the chance of dying due to vaccine is about 1 in a million.

www.covid19data.com.au/hospitalisations-icu

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Attitudes to Anti-Vaxxers- a parallel with smokers?

20 August 2021

I spent over 20 years of my life with my principal task to fight the tobacco industry.  I saw how harmful smoking was in my patients, and tried to tell them. But smoking was common, allowed everywhere and, after food, the most advertised product in the country.  Shops were so covered with ads that when you drove into a town, you looked for the cigarette ads to find the food shop.  It was normalised. One of my patients, whose leg I had just amputated said, ‘All the doctors say that  smoking is harmful, but if it was the government would do something about it’.

There were almost no smoke-free restaurants anywhere, because the non-smokers had been trained to put up with it, and restaurateurs were worried that smokers might leave them. They knew that the non-smokers had no choice.  The tobacco industry told the pub owners that smokers drank more and gambled more, so they had better not offend them, so the Australian Hotels Association were the major lobby, with the Registered Clubs and Restaurant Association tagging along.  The tobacco industry disputed the science long after it was proved to any reasonable analysis, and smokers clung onto this. The tobacco industry PR followed what was called the ‘tightrope policy’.  They did not know if smoking was harmful because they were not doctors, so they were not responsible for selling a lethal product, but because everyone had heard it was harmful, smokers were taking their own risks.

Smokers therefore said, encouraged by the Industry that it was their ‘right to smoke’, and then they denied that it harmed everyone else.  So instead of the tobacco industry having to prove that passive smoking was harmless, the medical profession then had to prove it was harmful and then get legislation implemented, a process that took about another 45 years at about 43 deaths a day in Australia.  Since non-smokers also got heart attacks etc, the Industry argued that they could not blame them on the second hand smoke.

Now we have the ‘right not to be vaccinated’ and the ‘right not to be excluded because we are unvaccinated’.  Instead of spreading second hand smoke, unvaccinated people are spreading COVID virus. And they are saying that vaccinated people also spread the virus and can also catch it.  Perhaps. But vaccinated people spread less virus, and the right not to be exposed to a virus trumps the right to spread it.

China unashamedly goes for the greatest good for the greatest number and puts little store on individual rights. Our tradition of Greek thought is all about the individual reaching his or her full potential, even if this means we tend to overlook the exploitation of others. This is becoming increasingly relevant as unregulated markets, like a Monopoly game, move money upwards and increase inequality.

I saw a meme yesterday that the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) does not mandate masks.  This was in the context of the conclusion that ‘neither should we’.  No doubt CDC does not need to mandate masks (assuming that the meme was correct)- the people who work there will have the vaccine ASAP.

The answer in civil rights terms if that anti-vaxxers have the right to be unvaccinated as consenting adults in private, but they do not have the right to go into public spaces where they may spread the virus.  That is the individual rights answer and also the greatest good for the greatest number.  We had a tobacco epidemic for 100 years, when it should have lasted 50 years if there had been science-based policy.  This must not happen with this epidemic. We must have a lockdown until probably 90% of the whole population is vaccinated.  We should vaccinate people who want it as fast as we can. Then we should have vaccine passports so we can open up again. Florida in the US is showing us what happens when silly policies are followed.

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NSW Govt tries to Blame Limousine Driver for New Sydney COVID Outbreak

26 June 2021

The pathetic efforts of Gladys Berejeklian to blame the limousine driver for the latest COVID outbreak, which has now caused a city-wide lockdown and an increasing number of cases needs to be judged on its demerits.  Obviously there should have been regulations that anyone on the front line had to be vaccinated, and surely driving a limo from the airport to the quarantine hotel is ‘front line’. 

She said that she ‘could not control the subcontractor of the subcontractor.’  Actually, she could have. Now she has the regulation that she should have had months ago- front line staff have to be vaccinated.

Of course, the reason for the spread of the virus from the Melbourne quarantine hotels months ago was the fact that the support staff had many jobs, because they were not permanent and had shifts everywhere.  The same problem occurred with transmission in Victorian Nursing homes- casual shifts.  Now it is Sydney drivers. 

The farmers are moaning that they will not be able to pick the fruit without the visas for backpackers, foreign students and Pacific Islanders.  Skilled migrants?  I do not think so.  It is about sub award wages and poor conditions.  If Australia is a rich country we need also to remember our roots as the country of a ‘fair go’. If top wage are high by world standards, so they should be at the bottom. If wages were high enough Aussies would pick the fruit, and  cleaners and limousine drivers would have regular jobs and award wages.

But here was the NSW Government trying to blame the limo driver for the outbreak.  But today’s Sun Herald has the Police Commissioner saying that the driver had committed no crime.   Neither has the NSW Government- they are just incompetent, but no one seems to blame them.

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-17/nsw-quarantine-worker-may-have-breached-health-order/100223120

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Clotting Risk from Vaccines and COVID19 Infection

28 April 2021

A new Oxford Study compares the incidence of Cerebral Venous Thrombosis with the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine and the risk if you get COVID19. The risk from the A-Z vaccine is 5 per million, the Pfizer and Moderna 4 per million and the risk if you catch COVID19 is 39 per million. The sample size is large with over half a million cases in each group, so the reliability of the research is quite good.While there is no COVID19 about, it is obviously safer to have no vaccine and no risk, but the COVID19 situation could change at any time. The Business Council and other non-medical political groups are calling for a more open society and for the case chasers to try to keep a certain level of infections once the gates are opened. i.e. We get the money- someone else fix the problems. Presumably they will try to stop further lockdowns, particularly as the percentage of the population who have been vaccinated increases.The bottom line is that the A-Z vaccine is almost as safe as the Pfizer one, and it is a good idea to be vaccinated ASAP in case the situation changes for the worse. I had the A-Z almost 2 weeks ago and only noted a slight headache, and tiredness on the evening of the vaccine, and a bit of local tenderness at the injection site the next day. I will have the second shot in 10 weeks.

www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-04-15-risk-rare-blood-clotting-higher-covid-19-vaccines-0?fbclid=IwAR2TIjtz8C7ku_M1OXcELaa2BfrC4hBTwBSoD_svCfdhwWQORr6K4sx4BOI

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