Posts Tagged ‘Liberal-National Coalition’

Tony Abbott’s $100 Million Broken Promise on Westmead Hostpital

The Abbott Government has broken its promise not to cut hospital funding by slashing funding for Westmead Hospital by $100 million.

Treasurer Joe Hockey also slashed $12 million in funding for St George Hospital, $10 million in funding for Nepean Hospital and $6 million for a new MRI at Mount Druitt Hospital.

The $100m for Westmead Hospital was funding the first stage of redeveloping Westmead Hospital. The total redevelopment would include

a new six or seven story ‘stack’ to consolidate the complex and critical care unit;

  • an expansion of outpatient and ambulatory care;
  • refurbishment of existing infrastructure; and
  • the repositioning of the front of the hospital.

Tony Abbott’s broken promise will hurt families who rely on Westmead Hospital and the critical services it provides.

Before the election, Tony Abbott promised not to cut hospital funding – now he has cut $100 million from Westmead Hospital and other hospitals in Sydney.

These health initiatives were axed by the Abbott Government on Tuesday:

In yesterday’s MYEFO, the Abbott Government confirms the funding cut on page 104.

O’Farrell Government’s Attacks and Cuts

Since taking office in March 2011, Barry O’Farrell and his Government have made a number of cuts to funding, jobs, workers’ rights and services. Here is an overview of what the workers of NSW have endured thus far.


Attacks on Workers’ Rights

Taken Control of IRC and Frozen Wages

-                   The Government passed the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Act 2011. Consequently the Government has given itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions for public sector staff through Regulations which do not have to pass any votes in the Parliament.

-                   The Industrial Relations Commission has had its power to arbitrate wage disputes removed.

-                   So far, the Government has frozen wage increases for public sector workers at 2.5%. Whilst the O’Farrell Government has claimed this will not leave public sector workers worse off, the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre found that a nurse would be $12, 232 worse off and a teacher $14, 580 worse off each year had the O’Farrell policy been applied over the past decade.

Attacked Injured Workers

-                   Government amendments to the Workers Compensation Act saw significant cuts to the support and compensation provided to injured workers.

-                   The cuts to Workers Compensation means weekly payments will cease after 2.5 years and medical costs will stop being paid after 3.5 years for most injured workers.

-                   Additionally, workers will have almost non-existent coverage for accidents on their way to or from work.

-                   No lump sum payments can be made for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury.

-                   Changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and duration of payments are to apply as soon as possible to existing claims.

-                   The O’Farrell government attributed the needs for the cuts to a ‘deficit’ in WorkCover. The cuts have shifted the blame of the ‘deficit’ onto injured workers, with the Government hoping for a reduction in insurance premiums for employers.

 

Stripped Police of their Death and Disability Protection

-                   The Government’s Police Amendment (Death and Disability) Act 2011 severely cut the support and rehabilitation provided to police who are injured on the job, as well as support for families of police officers killed at work.

Attacked Workers’ Rights to Fairly Bargain Collectively

-                   Currently before Parliament is the Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012. If this Bill is passed, it will increase fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 a day to $110,000 a day.

-                   It is also important to remember as mentioned above that unions no longer have the right to independent arbitration over wages and conditions and unlike the Federal industrial relations system have no legal right to strike through protected action.

No Consultation around Significant Industrial Changes

-                   By way of example The Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Staff Employment) Act 2011 saw 13,000 TAFE teachers transferred to the Federal industrial relations system where they now fall under the Fair Work Act

-                   No consultations with unions or teachers were attempted prior to the introduction and subsequent passing of this Act.

-                   Similarly, Government abolished the Transport Appeals Board with no discussion with unions.

Forcing Retail Workers to Work on Public Holidays

-                   The Retail Trading Amendment Bill 2012 presented by the O’Farrell Government will allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday which will see employees being forced to work on what should be a day for families.

-                   The Bill will also lead to backroom staff and staff of retail businesses working on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

 No Support for Equal Pay

-                   The most recent State budget has not allocated any funding to equal pay for social and community sector workers in line with the recent Fair Work findings.

-                   There are 30,000 community and public sector workers in NSW. Without NSW funding these workers will not receive the awarded increases in full which range from 19 – 41 per cent.

-                   Prior to the election O’Farrell promised social and community sector workers a fair and equitable pay rise.

Slashing Public Sector Entitlements

-                   The O’Farrell Government has applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to change 98 different Public Sector Awards and enact massive cuts to entitlements and benefit.

-                   Some of the cuts include: slashing annual leave loading, cutting penalty rates for shift workers, removal of additional sick leave entitlements and parental leave.

Besides being scientifically illiterate, why does Abbot place so much importance on acquiring a foreign tongue?

“Mr Abbott’s goals for Australia’s linguistic future can be achieved only with the express support of state leaders, who must mandate the study of at least one language other than English for all students from Year 4/5 to Year 10.” And “The Leader of the Opposition’s proposal to have 40% of Year 12 students learning a foreign language within a decade is seriously intelligent policy.” Fiona Mueller

More seriously unintelligent thinking from Tony Abbot?

Our children’s study time is limited. What they learn before they move out of the education system and into the rest of their lives is crucial. The most successful people are those who are comfortable with their own existence. We have a responsibility to shape the minds of the young when it is most plastic in a way which will enhance their chances of being at ease with their own existence. In other words, we must ensure that they have the necessary life-philosophy.

In the matter of language, John McCrone, author of The Ape that Spoke,has something of far more substance to say than has Tony Abbot:

We arrive in the world with the naked brain of an animal and through the moulding power of speech, we become equipped with the thought habits which make us human.

What makes us human! Contemplations at that level are seriously intelligent thinking.

Tony Abbot has studied Latin and Ancient Greek. An interesting and probably enjoyable mental exercise, but it did nothing to warn him against making bizarre statements regarding climate change and the national optic fibre rollout.

Besides being scientifically illiterate, why does Abbot place so much importance on acquiring a foreign tongue? It’s the global market place he sees where riches beckon. But the evolution of differing languages was never a barrier to the spread of ideas. In the 21st century, this has never been truer.

Setting the right priorities

In my final two years at school, the question as to what use was a BA majoring in a language going to be to anyone was occasionally asked. The stock answer was that it might lead to a career in the diplomatic service. The clear message was that learning a foreign language was not the means to the making of a living to aim for.

Today the focus is no longer on doing business with Britain. We are on the world stage and, if you can speak  Chinese, a company which does business with China could use you.

However, in the bigger picture, I cannot see much urgency in learning Chinese or Japanese when public signage in China and Japan is becoming bilingual – with that second language being our native tongue. English is the first language of India’s middle class. Indonesia is doing what the rest of South East Asia has been doing for years – which is to use English as the language to do business in. So, why not just sit back and wait for the rest of the word to learn to speak the way we already can?

Besides, English is the world language of science and technology – and that is what really matters.

How important is knowing why we are who we are?

Such knowledge has become increasingly important as society became less religious. Religion built a deep structure into our lives. It was the reference point. It was where we touched base. Scientific revelation can now fulfil this role. An awareness of the process of the acquisition of language is an example.

“Astonishing” hardly seems to be the appropriate word to describe the acquisition of language. At two and one half years my grand-daughter was putting sentences of three or four words together, but her words were difficult to understand. At age five she can now express simple ideas.

While others thought her way of speaking as being cute, as a reader of the new books of revelation, I saw the wonder in it. I was aware that I was observing the results of the neural networks in her speech centres being steadily hardwired – seemingly by the week. This was not cute. This was awesome.

The brain cells of my grand-daughter function very similarly to those of a fish and the structure of her brain is almost the same as an ape. It is social contact which is accelerating the growth and abilities of her frontal cortex in a feedback with the developing speech centres in her brain.

René  Descartes famously said: “I think – therefore I am.” Could Descartes think without using words? No, he could not. You might say that you are not thinking in words about what you are doing when you are driving (e.g. you don’t have to say: “I now have to turn the steering wheel to turn around that corner.”) However, when learning to drive, then talking to yourself is what you did. Now the network of brain cells that was constructed by words holds the program enabling you to drive.

If Descartes was alive today he would be saying: “I speak – therefore I am.”

Abbot fails to see wealth where it really is

The humanities people fear that an increasing emphasis on science and mathematics will desensitise the young mind to the feeling side of human nature – the side which enjoys poetry and music. It would be a very rare scientist who does not have a keen (even passionate) interest in some aspect of life outside of science. And science tells the  human side of history which the history of nations our children study does not.

Imagine a camp fire scene of 50,000 years ago. Those huddled together from the cold and staring into the light are making many sounds that those of 50,000 years earlier were not making. The sounds we now call words are connected into strings we now call sentences. The strings are very short. Linking the names of objects we now call nouns there are action words we now call verbs. The human ear is ready for many more differing words and the human tongue and larynx ready to utter many more differing words. Words we now call adjectives will be added. This will occur around camp fires in the millennia ahead when ideas of increasing complexity will be exchanged and entertaining stories told.

In the above scene stretched over millennia the most important series of events in the history of the planet is occurring. The software and the hardware are developing each other in the brains of our ancestors. One day that brain being shaped around campfires will be composing symphonies, designing 100-story buildings, replacing defunct human organs sending probes to the edge of the solar system.

Science tells other stories which remind us of the other life forms who we should be unselfishly sharing the planet with and not destroying in the pursuit of economic growth. To regain the spiritual that religion once provided, there is a lot to learn from the new books of revelation.

Our children do not have the time to be distracted by Tony Abbot’s interpretation of enlightenment. We don’t need 40% of our senior students ploughing through text books and sitting for exams in some foreign tongue because some politicians believe we need a sales advantage in the world market place more than we need the holistic and nourishing life-philosophy that scientific revelation is waiting there to give all who show an interest in receiving it.

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

This article was first published online at Online Opinion

Censoring public health in Queensland – a dangerous precedent?

Beyond the recent publicity around cuts to health and other portfolios, something deeply disturbing – even sinister – is occurring in Queensland.

The state government is implementing health policies on the run and cutting health jobs and services. This has happened before around the country and will eventually be turned around, albeit not before a deal of harm has been done.

Even this week, there is news of yet more cuts to prevention programs. But more disturbing still, and a move that should send alarm bells ringing around the country, is the Queensland government’s decision to gag health organisations, health professionals and public debate on health issues.

A number of of Queensland Health’s recent problems – from Bundaberg to payroll disasters – followed historical underfunding of key control processes, and came to light in part because concerned people had the courage to speak out.

There is a long history in public health of measures that were initially resisted or opposed, speedily becoming accepted as part of a modern, civilised society. We would not be one of the world’s longest-lived populations without advances in public health such as sanitation and safe water, safe food, safe environments, immunisation, control of infectious diseases, screening, speed limits, seat belts, random breath testing, and tobacco control.

Each of these advances met initial resistance. None of them – not a single one of the public health advances we now regard as vital – would have been implemented without public health advocacy.

A troubled history

There is nothing new about opposition to public health advocacy. When sanitary reforms were being debated in England in the 1850s, led by the pioneering epidemiologist John Snow, the London Times thundered, “We prefer to take our chances of cholera and the rest than be bullied into health by Mr. Snow”.

But Snow persevered, achieving changes that led the way to advances there and elsewhere. Since then, we have seen a plethora of public health advances because of pressure from health groups, whether professional organisations such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), or issue-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the various cancer councils and the Heart Foundation.

These external pressures are often encouraged by health ministers who need help generating support for action in Cabinet and the community: after legislation or other action, they frequently express their appreciation to the organisations concerned.

It is reasonable and normal for governments to expect that public servants follow conventional protocols in relation to public comment. It is also reasonable to expect that NGOs engaged in advocacy do so in a sensible and civilised manner. It is, however, unreasonable and dangerous for governments to gag health NGOs, and to take action that will specifically preclude them from advocating for change.

Gagging order

Health departments traditionally fund large numbers of NGOs to carry out crucial work in the community. Queensland Health Department contracts with these NGOs will now be subject to censorship. Any NGO receiving 50% or more of its funding from the state will be precluded from advocating for state or federal legislative change – even from providing website links to other organisations’ websites that do so.

NGOs justifiably fear that the 50% figure is just a starting point, and that this censorship may ultimately apply to any funding. Many now dare not speak out. Even those not currently in receipt of funding but thinking of applying will feel constrained.

The condition relating to websites means that funded NGOs may not be able to provide links to organisations such as Cancer Council Australia, the Heart Foundation, or even the AMA and the World Health Organization, all of which advocate for legislative change.

Government-funded NGOs are often also funders of research, which may conclude that legislation or regulation is appropriate. The new Queensland Health approach will preclude reputable health organisations from even discussing the implications of such research.

An important 2007 paper showed that there was already cause for concern about suppression of information in the health sector. It noted international precedents where exposure and comment from outside government were crucial in preventing further public health catastrophes, such as the 1980 Black Report in the United Kingdom, the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union, the SARS outbreak in China, and harmful mercury blood levels in the United States.

But why?

So what justification has the Queensland Government offered for its descent into the dark ages?

First, they assert that NGOs should focus on their “core activities”, not advocacy. But seeking action that will protect the health of the community is the most fundamental core activity for public health organisations. Even if they cannot understand this, it is outrageous that a government providing only some of an organisation’s funding should prohibit action carried out with funding from other sources.

Second, they state in relation to funded groups that “we would expect that organisation to conduct itself with the political impartiality of any other government sector.” This verges on the bizarre, given that by definition NGOs are not part of the “government sector”.

A third rationale now offered is that this condition will prevent abuses, such as the “Fake Tahitian Prince” scandal, and funding of NGOs to pursue political agendas. But any concerns in these areas should be addressed by protocols common to all governments (and indeed other funding agencies) about proper, well-monitored use of funds.

The fourth rationale is that the government is seeking “health outcomes, not political outcomes or social engineering outcomes”. The government is entitled to seek health outcomes from activities that it funds: but that is no justification for gagging the non-government sector.

It is desperately depressing that any health minister should use pejorative phrases such as “social engineering” to describe the aims of health organisations, and, by implication, the aims of his own and other health departments around the country.

The Queensland government’s approach has already met with some success. It has created a climate of fear. Beyond the AMA, whose Queensland president, Dr. Alex Markwell, has shown herself to be a true health leader, and some courageous public health academics, few in the state are willing to speak out, lest they be victimised and lose their funding.

These are dark days for public health in Queensland. The public health advocacy that has made our community so healthy will be hard to find. By contrast, commercial interests – in areas such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, junk food, even firearms – are free to pressure governments at will.

Queensland, of all states, should have learned that gagging people in health from speaking out is a recipe for disaster. Censorship is the hallmark of a totalitarian regime; censorship in health sends out the signal loud and clear that the government neither understands public health nor cares for the future health of the community.

Other governments should condemn the Queensland approach though the Standing Council of Health Ministers; the Federal Government should bring all possible pressure to bear; and health professionals around the nation should use every available opportunity to make clear their distaste for this fundamentally unhealthy approach to public health.

Public health has been described as the conscience of the health system. It should be a matter of great concern for the entire community that any government is seeking to silence our conscience.

Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University.

This article was first published online at The Conversation

 

O’Farrell Consigns Western Sydney to 300 Years of Nuclear Waste

Newly released documents reveal the O’Farrell Government is dumping radioactive waste – which needs to be monitored for the next 300 years – in Western Sydney.

The government’s report into moving the waste reveals:

“Long term management and monitoring (and associated funding) arrangements would need to be implemented at the disposal site for at least 300 years.” *

The feasibility review into disposal options for the waste from a former uranium smelter at Hunters Hill also shows the government has manipulated the data to avoid it being classified as radioactive – so it can be dumped at Kemps Creek.  

 “This report confirms Barry O’Farrell has broken his promise to the people of Western Sydney and is dumping radioactive waste from the North Shore in their backyard,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said.   

“The Premier’s own experts confirm the government will need to provide funding to monitor the radioactive waste for the next 300 years at Kemps Creek.

“This decision says it all about Barry O’Farrell’s real attitude to Western Sydney.” 

Shadow Environment Minister, Luke Foley said the report showed the government had found ‘radioactive hot spots’ in the waste, but twisted the data to avoid classifying it as such.

“The O’Farrell Government has manipulated the data that shows the waste is radioactive – so it can be sent to Kemps Creek,” Mr Foley said.

The report clearly states:

 “Radioactive material was detected at varying concentrations across the area… one of the samples exceeded the criteria for restricted solid waste.”

 “Therefore for the purpose of the radiological results discussion, the majority of the areas were combined into a single grouping covering the majority of the site (excluding LG4). This impacts on the potential remediation actions of the site, as the remaining areas (LG1 and LG2) will radiologically be treated as a single area.” **

 “It is clear the O’Farrell Government has reclassified the data so it can dump the North Shore’s radioactive waste in Western Sydney,” Mr Foley said.

“This report proves once and for all that Barry O’Farrell is dumping radioactive waste – that will need to be monitored until the 24th century – at Kemps Creek.”

Barry O’Farrell’s original promise to keep the waste away from Kemps Creek:

“To dump it in Western Sydney is stupid, it’s a threat, and it’s not the way any government ought to be behaving.”            (Barry O’Farrell, October 2010)


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