Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 19th February 2015. Now We Are Working On The 2016 One!

Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and the fuss has still not settled by a long shot. Indeed more than a few commentators are now wondering out loud if the Abbot Government will last for a second term - indeed lasting until next week might be tricky after the Spill etc..
The modified Medicare co-payment plan - announced late last year  - has now gone very quiet with the Government disarray of the last 3 weeks. The Queensland election has hardly helped especially since they now have a new Premier! Amazingly there is still no clarity as to where the co-payment plan from anyone in Government.
It is also amazing that with the 2014 Budget still not passed we are seeing submissions regarding the 2015 Budget.
As early warning it looks like the 2016 Budget is handed down Tuesday 12th , May 2015. That is now less than 3 months away! Interestingly Parliament seems to have a long break from the 26th of March until Budget Night so sorting out 2015 is getting pretty urgent!
Other articles this week.

General Budget Issues.

The political price of betraying public trust

Date February 7, 2015
No matter how the crisis that has engulfed and in effect crippled our national government is resolved, our national interest compels that first principles replace unseemly internecine power plays as the paramount concern of our elected representatives.
An overarching principle is that people in public office are in positions of public trust. There is no higher office than that of prime minister. Tony Abbott's authority has collapsed precisely because he has lost the trust of so many voters. This has been made abundantly clear to the traumatised members of his party room by their electors throughout a summer of simmering discontent.
Trust is earned, paid for by the currency of integrity. This in turn flows from honouring commitments – another first principle. Mr Abbott's standing in the community and in his own party room, which is poised to determine his fate next Tuesday morning, has deteriorated so dramatically primarily because so many Australians are aghast at the failure of the Prime Minister and his government to keep promises and to justify measures – particularly funding changes to higher education and to healthcare – that were not announced before the 2014 election.

As our economy suffers, cue the clowns

Mon 9 Feb 2015, 8:37am
The pantomime being played out in Canberra has only served to divert attention from the grim reality facing the economy and the absence of any cogent plan to restore the nation's finances, writes Ian Verrender.
Everyone loves the circus; the spectacle, the drama, the danger, the sheer exhilaration.
When the chips are down, when all seems lost, the tantalising prospect of escape, no matter how temporary, can be a wonderfully therapeutic experience.
Take our current predicament.
A breathless silence has descended through the big top. Fear and apprehension have gripped the assembled throng.
After an endless series of back-flips, the acrobat, having taken to the high wire in desperation, has lost his footing and is clinging on by his fingernails as the enthralled crowd far below gazes on at his hopeless predicament.

Budget pressure is set to plague the Coalition

Pressure on the government’s finances is set to intensify in the lead up to this year’s budget, regardless of the outcome of this morning’s partyroom meeting, with the shock of plunging commodity prices only just beginning to flow through the economy.
The Reserve Bank’s rate cut last week assumed there would be no further effort by the government to trim spending to match falling revenues. As the bank explained in its economic update on Friday: “Large falls in commodity prices have not affected the forecast extent of fiscal consolidation materially, since governments have generally chosen not to respond to the most recent reduction in tax and royalty revenue implied by lower commodity prices, and have left spending plans unchanged.”
It noted that Western Australia, where there have been some large cuts to spending, is an exception, but added it was too small to have an effect on national demand.
In his pitch to the National Press Club last week, Tony Abbott suggested the hard work had been done in last year’s budget.

Time to break the budget logjam

David Uren

Economics Editor
THE will for further budget repair appears to have wilted in the wake of the Coalition’s Queensland election drubbing and the challenge to Tony Abbott’s leadership as the Prime Minister foreshadowed yesterday that this year’s budget would not repeat the errors of his government’s first.
“We will not buy fights with the Senate that we can’t win unless we’re absolutely determined they are the fights we really, really do need to have,” he said.
Reflecting on where his government had gone wrong, he commented: “It was a bold and ambitious budget last year. With the wisdom of hindsight it was perhaps too bold and too ambitious. We did, with the wisdom of hindsight, bite off more than we could chew, but I’ve listened, I’ve learnt and I’ve changed, and the government will change with me.”

Why the government is a brake on the economy

Date February 10, 2015 - 10:36AM

Peter Martin

Abbott says we’re on the right path, but the numbers paint a different picture. Such exaggerated claims have eaten away at the public’s trust.
Here's what's missing: trust. Not just between Abbott and his backbenchers, but also between Abbott and us. If anything,  the leadership contest has made things worse.
As Abbott brought forward the timing of the leadership vote on Sunday, his supporter and finance minister Mathias Cormann told the ABC the economy was "heading in the right direction". He wanted "to build on the achievements we made in 2014".
Without trust we lack confidence. We are neither spending nor investing what we should.  
Take a moment to consider the achievements and the direction in which things are heading. That year began with a quarterly rate of economic growth of 1 per cent. After the budget, it slid to 0.5 per cent, and then to 0.3 per cent. It's falling, rather than rising. The direction is down. (Ignore the through-the-year figures Cormann quoted. They make the budget look good by including the very strong economic growth that preceded it.)

Retreat on budget goals will break country: Peter Costello

Dennis Shanahan

Annabel Hepworth

PETER Costello has warned that any retreat from the federal government’s savings push could “completely break the budget and the country in the years ahead”.
Australia’s longest-serving treasurer and the chairman of the Future Fund told The Australian yesterday that the government would be “letting down the country” if it “gave up the effort to ­balance the budget”.
“We have to do this because the situation is going to get more challenging, and unless we get our expenses and revenue back in equilibrium now, those changes will completely break the budget and the country in the years ahead,” Mr Costello said.
His warning came as Joe Hockey informed colleagues that dumping the Coalition’s economic initiatives would sacrifice a return to budget surplus.

Budget may never get back to surplus, says Joe Hockey

Date February 10, 2015 - 7:40PM

Peter Martin and Mark Kenny

So big is the hit to the budget from commodity prices and the measures held up in the Senate it may "never get back to surplus", Treasurer Joe Hockey has told the Coalition party room.
The embattled minister made the claim as an independent assessment of the damage to the budget since May put it at $46 billion to $56 billion.
The total includes only the major measures held up in the Senate, among them the cuts to the Medicare rebate associated with the introduction of a co-payment for bulk billing ($3.5 billion), the cuts to higher education ($4 billion), the cuts to pharmaceutical benefits scheme ($1.3 billion) and the reintroduction of fuel excise indexation ($2.1 billion but now being pursued by administrative means that may themselves be disallowed in the Senate).

Joe Hockey ups the ante on fiscal reform

David Crowe

Joe Hockey meets Olivia Harker, 7, on a visit to the Hodgkinson family property at Murrumbateman, southern NSW. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Corp Australia
BUDGET pressures will crush the country if Australians do not ­accept further action to fix the ­nation’s finances, Joe Hockey has warned, in an attempt to clear the way for new measures to cut spending or raise revenue.
The Treasurer also took on the central argument against his budget by declaring it was “fundamentally unfair” to avoid unpopular cuts when this would mean passing a bigger burden on to the next generation.
The government also suffered another round of conflicting messages on the next steps on the GP co-payment, one of the central features of last year’s budget, when one frontbencher said it was dropped while Mr Hockey kept up his arguments for a fee on visiting the doctor.
Former treasurer Peter Cost­ello told The Australian this week that a retreat on fiscal reform would “break the budget and the country” in the years ahead.

Unemployment hits 6.4 per cent. Will Joe Hockey do a Wayne Swan?

Date February 13, 2015 - 8:58AM

Peter Martin

Economics Editor, The Age

Never at any point during Labor's reign or during the global financial crisis did Australia's unemployment rate hit 6 per cent.
It sailed past 6 per cent shortly after Joe Hockey's first budget in June and hasn't been back since. The January figure of 6.4 per cent is the worst for 13 years - the worst since 2002 when Tony Abbott was employment minister, Hockey was small business minister and John Howard was yet to be blessed by the mining boom.
It's a reminder that nothing much has emerged to drive the economy since the mining construction boom ended; nothing much apart from home building. And that's the problem. Home loans are booming. Leaving aside refinancing, half of all new loans are now going to investors. Many of them are better described as speculators. The housing construction industry is working full bore in parts of the country and any further borrowing spurred by further interest rate cuts is likely to be diverted into pushing up house prices.

Budget revenue retreat tops $30 billion

David Uren

Adam Creighton

JOE Hockey is facing a massive budget shortfall of at least $30 billion by the end of next financial year as revenue growth retreats from the average rate of the past two decades that underpinned Labor’s spending sprees.
Analysis by The Weekend Australian shows revenues this financial year are growing at only 3.3 per cent compared with the 5.3 per cent estimate in latest budget papers.
Between 1993 and 2013, federal government revenues grew at an annual average pace of 6.4 per cent. If the 3.3 per cent growth continues this and next financial year, the government will receive $11.2bn less this year and more than $20bn less in 2015-16.
The government would have enjoyed revenues of $383.4bn this financial year, rising to $407.9bn next year, had the Coalition been fortunate enough to enjoy average rates of revenue growth.

Health Budget Issues.

Tony Abbott signals retreat on Medicare reforms

Sarah Martin

TONY Abbott will only pursue changes to Medicare that win the support of doctors, bending to ­demands from disgruntled MPs to retreat on the GP co-payment.
Backbenchers who have been lobbying the government to scrap the proposed $5 cut to Medicare benefits for non-concession ­patients, welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge yesterday that he would not pursue policy changes that did not have the broad support of the sector.
Mr Abbott is understood to have told yesterday’s partyroom meeting that he had no intention of fighting a war with doctors’ groups, and would not introduce health reform legislation into the Senate if it was likely to fail.
10 February 2015, 6.18am AEDT

Abbott redux needs to revisit ‘sustainable’ health spending

Jane Hall

Professor of Health Economics and Director, Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation at University of Technology, Sydney

Kees Van Gool

Health economist at University of Technology, Sydney
The Abbott government “reset” yesterday provides a valuable opportunity to reconsider health policies based on the idea that Australia’s health system is unsustainable. But first it will need to embrace a new understanding of what a sustainable health-care sector actually is.
The idea of sustainability has spread from ecology to apply to most aspects of human endeavour. In the context of health care, it can mean many things. The English National Health Service (NHS), for instance, launched a strategy for a sustainable health system in 2014 with emphasis on reducing environmental damage and promoting healthy lifestyles.
But discussions about Medicare’s sustainability under the Abbott government have only concerned how much we spend on the health sector.

Medicare Co-payment Issues.

'Extremely angry' doctors demand PM dump planned Medicare rebate changes

Australian Medical Association says whoever is prime minister after Monday should dump proposed changes and talk to frontline GPs
Australian Associated Press
GPs expressed their anger over planned changes to the Medicare rebate after hundreds met in forums in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
“Doctors are extremely angry, frustrated and concerned at the raft of changes the government continually tries to enforce upon healthcare and medical practice in Australia,” Dr Tony Bartone, Australian Medical Association Victoria president, told reporters on Sunday.
Bartone said the plan to freeze rebates for four years would make it increasingly difficult for doctors to run a viable practice.
“There’s concerns that the costs may continue to blow out because of these changes, and it may cost as much as $100 for a child to be seen with an ear infection,” he said.

Confusion in govt over GP co-payment

Updated: 11:24 am, Monday, 9 February 2015
Health Minister Sussan Ley has clarified the government has no plans to dump GP co-payment.
Her comments come after Liberal MP Luke Simpkins told Sky News Tony Abbott promised the party room there will be no changes to Medicare.
Mr Simpkins said that the prime minister announced a series of 'radical changes' including a 'greater level of consultation' over the GP co-payment.
When asked by Sky News' David Speers if the Prime Minister had said the co-payment was dead Mr Simpkins said: 'Yeah, basically, it looks like it.'
Upon further questioning Mr Simpkins walked this back.

GP co-payment architect calls for $5 fee for doctor's visits to be dropped

Date February 9, 2015 - 6:28PM

Dan Harrison

The former Howard Government advisor who put a GP co-payment on the political agenda has called for the Abbott government to scrap its plan to introduce an "optional" $5 fee to visit the doctor.
Policy consultant Terry Barnes, whose 2013 submission to the Commission of Audit kickstarted debate about Medicare fees, said controversy about the government's proposed $5 co-payment was getting in the way of more substantial reform of the health system.
"My view is that the pointless fighting between the medical profession and the Government over the current co-payment and rebate cut proposals are swamping progress towards the comprehensive structural reform of Medicare," Mr Barnes said.

No co-payment without doctors: Abbott

10 February, 2015
Tony Abbott has promised not to push ahead with any new Medicare co-payment proposals without the support of doctors.
Some Liberal MPs were confused about whether or not the prime minister promised to dump controversial Medicare changes after surviving a spill motion in the party room on Monday morning.
Mr Abbott later said there would be no new co-payment plans without the backing of the medical profession.
"It is important to maintain the support of the medical profession because, let's face it, they have the best interests of their patients at heart," he told reporters in Canberra.

Joe Hockey vows to persist with changes to Medicare

Asked if the government will pursue widely criticised budget measures, embattled treasurer says, ‘We have no choice’
The government will persist with some of its least popular budget policies, including proposed changes to Medicare, according to the embattled treasurer, Joe Hockey.
When asked on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday if the government would pursue widely criticised budget savings measures, Hockey replied that it would, because “we have no choice”.
Earlier in the week, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, had promised his party room that no new changes to Medicare would be proposed without proper consultation with doctors’ groups. The health minister, Sussan Ley, is consulting with doctors’ and patients’ groups on plans to reduce the Medicare rebate by $5 for non-concessional adults.

Is the $5 GP fee on or off? The Prime Minister’s own parliamentary secretary doesn’t seem to know

  • February 11, 2015 7:05PM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
CONFUSION over the fate of the government’s unpopular $5 GP fee continues to dog the government with the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary secretary telling radio listeners it has been scrapped.
Not so, says the Health Minister Sussan Ley.
Discontent with the $5 cut to the Medicare rebate that will bring an end to bulk billing for general patients and push up the cost of seeing some doctors to $65 was central to this week’s challenge to Tony Abbott’s leadership.
MPs demanded the Prime Minister scrap the charge which their voters are opposed to in order to turn around the government’s poor polling.

Confusion as Health Minister Sussan Ley's office insists $5 GP co-payment is going ahead

Joanna Heath
The office of Health Minister Sussan Ley insists the government is proceeding with its consultation on the proposed $5 co-payment for GP visits, despite three government members expressing doubts over its continued existence this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge declared the government had "dropped the Medicare co-payments and we're starting again from scratch".
"The policy which we had on the table in January and February is gone so we're now starting again from scratch in terms of a deep conversation with the Australian people and with the medical profession as to how to make Medicare sustainable," Mr Tudge told ABC Radio.

Co-pay 'architect' says policy is dead

13 February, 2015 Paul Smith
There is an air of bemused frustration in the words of Terry Barnes. But you can understand why.
Back in 2013, Mr Barnes (pictured) put together a paper, what he describes as a "conversation starter", for the health policy experts, suggesting that maybe more people should dig into their own pockets when they see their GP.
No, the health world was not set alight by its release.
But in a mysterious journey yet to be fully documented, that paper ended up on the desks of government ministers and bureaucrats who apparently read it, thought about it and then a few months later unleashed one of worst health policies of the past 20 years: the GP co-payment plan.

Pharmacy Matters:

Maximise your 100 leading customers

9 February, 2015 Chris Brooker
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has officially launched its newest online CPD course titled ‘Know and love your top 100 customers’.
The new course will highlight the value your top 100 customers add to your business, providing recommendations on programs and services to help increase their engagement and loyalty.
The Guild has partnered with its former national president, Kos Sclavos, in the development of this course, utilising his industry knowledge and expertise in business management.

Government briefed on 6CPA urgency

12 February, 2015 Chris Brooker
Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations are yet to formally commence, but Guild officials say they have been active in keeping pharmacy in the forefront of the Canberra health agenda.
Writing in Guild newsletter Forefront, Guild executive director David Quilty said they had “made clear to the Government that this negotiation is urgent and time critical”.
“We know how much price disclosure is hurting pharmacy businesses and that the next Agreement must address this problem,” Mr Quilty said.
“The Guild has not left a stone unturned in ensuring every relevant politician and public servant fully understands how price disclosure is impacting pharmacy businesses, staff and patients”.
Mr Quilty said the Guild had “put a comprehensive proposal for the next Agreement to the Health Minister as well as other key political offices”.

Guild slams 'misleading' News Corp report

12 February, 2015 Christie Moffat
A media report implying that pharmacists have double-standards concerning supermarkets is misleading and omits key information, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia says.
The News Limited article focuses on QCPP Pharmacy of the Year finalist SuperPharmacyPlus in Stafford, Brisbane, which contains an IGA Xpress supermarket on the premises.
The pharmacy along with the connected supermarket is owned by a group of six pharmacists, and the article implies this is an unfair contradiction to the Guild’s strong stance against pharmacies being owned by supermarkets.
The article also highlights the delayed release of a report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) over whether the Community Pharmacy Agreement provides value for money.

Consumers and doctors to have a say in medicine prices as study finds patients ditch high cost drugs

  • February 12, 2015 10:00PM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
THE high cost of subsidised life saving prescription medicines is seeing general consumers abandon them and a planned $5 hike in prices will exacerbate the problem a new study shows.
A study comparing concessional medicine users who pay just $6.10 to general consumers who pay $37.70 for scripts found general consumers were 1.63 times more likely to stop using their drugs.
The research comes as the government is planning to hike the price of prescription medicine by $5 to $41 a script for general consumers and it warns of serious consequences.
“The impact of a recent proposal to further increase copayments for general users by $5 would likely have a negative impact on adherence,” the study warns.

Minister invites doctors' say on 6CPA

13 February, 2015 Chris Brooker
The Federal Government is calling for consumer and allied health professional input as part of its Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement consultation process.
The announcement came as Health Minister Sussan Ley (pictured) was reported to have said she will “seek to clarify” the Pharmacy Guild’s position on supermarket ownership in the wake of the revelation that a Pharmacy of the Year finalist also contains a supermarket. 
At a meeting of health interest groups in Canberra Ms Ley said the government wanted to canvass views from a wide range of pharmacy bodies, as well as from other health stakeholders such as the AMA and the Consumers Health Forum.

Supermarket threat imperils community cohesion

13 February, 2015 Christie Moffat
If supermarkets integrate pharmacies into their stores it will change the community “for the worse”, a senior business figure believes.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA), says that pharmacies in supermarkets would lead to lower quality customer care, and would also cause a fall in employment, as some pharmacy tasks could be “absorbed” into the role of checkout operators.
In an opinion piece for online financial magazine SmartCompany, Mr Strong said that supermarket duopoly Coles and Woolsworths pay their staff time and a half on Sundays, whereas pharmacies are required to pay their staff double time.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the 2015 Budget (or the Government) at the end of the day.
One wonders for how much longer this will go on and just what impact a change of leader might have?


Anonymous said...

Labor inherited a healthy budget, blew it apart, mismanaged it, spent all of the savings, built in structural deficits into perpetuity, got thrown out, and now are blocking any sensible repairs so that our children and their children are not burdened with daily interest payments of $100M.

A disgrace.

Dr David More MB PhD FACHI said...

And your plan to fix the problem is?


Anonymous said...

I'm not in opposition, so I'll take your remark as a mindless quip.

Labor don't have a plan to fix the problem. Their obstructionist, populist behaviour will only see the debt compound, the Liberals thrown out and then they will double down and compound the problem again.

You seem to be obsessed with this budget and blind to Labor's obstructionist, destructive strategy.

If you have children you need to reprioritise.

Dr David More MB PhD FACHI said...

If you don't have a plan I think you are clearly just a political spear carrier.

Thanks for your vacuous contribution.

FWIW my view is that the Government approach is by no means the only one that might repair the budget - and that budget repair is more than possible without some of the nasty ideas they just sprung on us all!