Thursday, October 01, 2015

2016 Budget -Parliament Over for A Few Weeks and The Great Calm Descends.

October 1 Edition
Budget Night was May 12, 2015. It now seems to have been forgotten and in the Press we seem to be hearing just a little more about recession and a new Government.
The big question will be if we see some more confidence in the whole country with a new PM. Only time will answer that question!
Of course I suspect what will happen next is going to be hard to work out for weeks and all previous commentary may now be safely ignored.
Well at least it is really feeling like it is Spring - after a burst of cold earlier in the week!
Here is some other of the recent other news and analysis.

The Political Scene.

Turnbull's new team unveiled

Malcolm Turnbull has named Marise Payne to defence, Christopher Pyne to employment and Christian Porter to social security in three of the biggest shocks in his cabinet reshuffle.
The new Prime Minister also promoted new faces including Simon Birmingham to education as part of his overhaul of the government following last week’s removal of Tony Abbott.
Major casualties included Joe Hockey and Bruce Billson, both of whom stepped down.
As well, the new Prime Minister has named his friend Arthur Sinodinos as cabinet secretary, increasing the size of the peak council by one person to a new size of 20 positions. Senator Sinodinos takes on responsibilities across portfolios.

Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffle is a game changer

  • The Australian
  • September 21, 2015 12:00AM

David Crowe

Malcolm Turnbull has used a ruthless cabinet reshuffle to remake the federal government in his image, promoting his closest allies while fuelling the enmity of old foes who have been driven from power.
The Prime Minister is dumping some of the “ideological” causes pursued by Tony Abbott and pledging renewal following the shock departure of Joe Hockey and four others from cabinet.
Mr Turnbull stunned his colleagues with the scale of the overhaul, including the promotion of Marise Payne into cabinet as ­Defence Minister, lifting her from the low-profile job of running human services.
He also brought close ally ­Arthur Sinodinos into the heart of the government as Cabinet Secretary — a role that gives him sway across all portfolios — and rewarded every one of the MPs who walked with him into last Monday’s leadership ballot.

Turnbull era: Renewal on a scale never seen before

Paul Kelly

There has never been anything like this in our politics — a sweeping reconstruction and renewal of a first-term government.
There has been no election but there is a new government. Malcolm­ Turnbull has put his stamp all over the Liberal Party. The ­unifying concept, as he said, is “a contemporary 21st-century govern­ment”.
As a circuit-breaker, this is a decisiv­e moment. The key prin­ciples have been generational change, merit mostly, the eleva­tion of women and rewarding of supporters. Turnbull has been decisive­, ruthless and clever.
He has made some effort to recog­nise Abbott supporters.
Turnbull is playing with Labor’s head and is destroying its election-year planning. He has taken a risk on internal unity but has probably done enough to achieve tolerable cohesion. He has punted on the next generation of Liberal talent. And that promoted younger ­generation now become loyalists and stakeholders in the Turnbull project.

Political profile: The rise and fall of Joe Hockey

By political reporter Eliza Borrello
Joe Hockey confirmed on Sunday he is quitting politics - his political career is a study in contrasts.
In the early 2000s, as one half of Sunrise's Big Guns of Politics segment, he became one of Parliament's best recognised MPs.
But after becoming Treasurer in 2013, a series of poorly chosen phrases and an unpopular budget saw Mr Hockey's hopes of one day converting that exposure and becoming prime minister, dashed.
In April 2014 he was roundly criticised for saying: "the poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases," when discussing the Government's desire to increase fuel tax.

Sussan Ley holds onto health portfolio

Jo Hartley and AAP | 21 September, 2015 | 
Sussan Ley has hung onto her post as minister for health and sport, and is one of five women appointed to the new cabinet and among nine women who are now part of the government (pictured above). 
Former deputy health minister Fiona Nash has become Rural Health Minister, while Ken Wyatt, member for Hasluck in WA, has taken over the assistant health minister role.
In doing so he has become Australia’s first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to win a frontbench position.

General Budget Issues.

Here are the final results of Joe Hockey's first budget

Chris Pash Sep 21, 2015, 9:45 AM
The final numbers are in for the 2014-15 year federal budget.
And it shows an underlying cash deficit of $37.9 billion, about $8 billion more than the $29.8 billion forecast by treasurer Joe Hockey when he announced his first budget in May 2014.
However, against a re-forecast in May this year, the result is a $3.3 billion improvement, mainly due to government spending being $2.9 billion lower than expected.
There was a slight improvement in revenue against forecasts. Total receipts were $1 billion higher than expected at the time of the 2015-16 budget.

AFR Tax Reform Summit: Labor says no to a higher GST, yes to lower company tax

Date September 22, 2015 - 9:25PM

Peter Martin

Labor has rejected co-operating with the Coalition on boosting the goods and services tax, whatever the outcome of next year's tax white paper and negotiations with the states.
Addressing the Australian Financial Review tax summit in Sydney, Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said while any GST rise would be permanent, any income tax cuts funded by it would be eaten away by bracket creep.
"Are we really going to increase the GST every time the nation needs to deal with bracket creep?" he asked. There were as many as five suggestions for what to do with any extra GST, among them funding state budgets, cutting the deficit and cutting company tax. Only one could be afforded.

This is Scott Morrison's biggest problem

Chris Pash Sep 22, 2015, 11:27 AM
Scott Morrison has inherited a sizeable budget deficit and a large communication problem.
Weak business and consumer confidence, which are holding back businesses from investing and consumers from spending, are well-established thematic problems for the Coalition.
Morrison’s predecessor, Joe Hockey, had difficulty communicating his first budget back in May 2014, bringing cries of unfairness to those not so well off in the community, and a fall in confidence followed.
Morrison now has a couple of months before the mid year budget update (which usually drops a couple of weeks before the Christmas break but can be delayed until the New Year) to work on a compelling narrative and go some way to restoring confidence.

Malcolm Turnbull junks tax white paper in major 'reset'

Date September 23, 2015 - 12:11PM

Mark Hawthorne

Mark Hawthorne is Senior Editor at The Age.

In one of his first acts after becoming Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull last week secretly suspended all work on the Abbott government's white paper on taxation, just weeks before it was due to deliver its first preliminary report.
The biggest review of taxation ever undertaken in this country, is now dead in the water 
Senior executive
Stunned bureaucrats at the Federal Treasury, the Tax White Paper Taskforce and the Board of Taxation, were last week told work on the white paper -  instigated by former treasurer Joe Hockey in 2014 - would come to a complete halt.
"We were told to put everything on ice, and that a 'reset' on tax reform was taking place," said one senior executive.

Health Budget Issues.

Outdated, risky cardiac procedures see $267m wasted a year

  • The Australian
  • September 21, 2015 12:00AM

Sean Parnell

More than $267 million is wasted each year on outdated, expensive and risky cardiac procedures still listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Amid an ongoing review of the $21 billion scheme, the study by researchers from Monash Heart and the University of Melbourne demonstrates how “sensible changes” to four listings would not only save money but also ­improve clinical practice.
Last week it was revealed that Bruce Robinson, who is heading the MBS review that is due to ­report to government this year, believed a quarter of the services listed were not supported by evidence, while about 30 per cent of all healthcare treatments would be of little benefit to ­patients.
Professor Robinson, the dean of the Sydney Medical School, said a focused MBS could become a clinical tool powerful enough to influence how patients were tested, referred and treated, but the Australian Medical Association fears the ­review is nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise.

Spending by individuals sets pace on health expenditure

  • The Australian
  • September 25, 2015 12:00AM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Spending by individuals is the nation­’s fastest-growing area of non-government expenditure on health, new data has revealed.
The Health expendit­ure Australia 2013-14 report, released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows that individuals spent $27.7 billion in recurrent funding for health goods and services in that financial year, with the bulk spent on medications.
Institute spokesman Adrian Webster said the increased spending by individuals was in part ­driven by changes to the medical expenses rebate and the ­introduction of means-testing of private health insurance incent­ives.
The non-government sector share of total expenditure grew relatively rapidly over the past two years, despite generally falling throughout the decade.

Pay GPs for quality not just quantity: Ley

Paul Smith | 24 September, 2015 | 
The Federal Health Minister says doctors should be paid for “quality of care, not just quantity”.
Sussan Ley, recently sworn in as health minister in Malcolm Turnbull’s new government, was speaking at the RACGP’s national conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.
She said her looming revamp of Medicare would bolster primary healthcare and cut the number of patients unnecessarily ending up in hospital.
During the past financial year, some 285,000 patients were admitted to hospitals for chronic conditions that may have been prevented by “proper” primary healthcare, she said.

Review of Medicare rebate list to shake up ‘outdated and unnecessary’ medical services

TONSILLECTOMY surgery for kids, scans for lower back pain and bone density tests for seniors face a shake up in the Medicare rebate list under a sweeping review to be announced today.
The great Australian tradition of ‘getting your tonsils out’ early is under review, amid studies that show 68 per cent of children with tonsil problems and aged under 15 ­improve without surgery.
In some cases, there is a risk attached to having the surgery.
Announcing a review of all 5700 items and services that doctors can charge to taxpayers, the Turnbull government will seek public consultation on a clean-up of Medicare.

Health Insurance Issues.

Call to curb 'junk' insurance policies that exclude private hospitals

Date September 23, 2015 - 6:35PM

Amy Corderoy

Health Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Private health leaves patient in the lurch

John Grech had been paying his health insurance premiums for 20 years when his GP told him he needed to be assessed for surgery.
A few hundred dollars and a raft of tests later, he was ready for the operation – until his surgeon informed him it would cost him almost $4000 for the surgery plus more for the anaesthetic.
"I was shocked," said Mr Grech, who works in building services at Fairfax Media. "When I contacted my insurance provider, they looked it up and said my doctor wasn't covered by them."
Mr Grech is lucky. Despite the inconvenience and the cost of having to seek out a new surgeon, his surgery will be covered.

Private Health Networks.

GP group 'deleted' from primary health network

Paul Smith | 24 September, 2015 | 
Three state hospital services and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have removed a group representing some 250 GP from one of the largest primary health networks in the country.
FNQ Docs was a key part of the consortium that made a successful bid to run the Northern Queensland Primary Healthcare Network.
But three months after the network started operating, the doctors' group — which supports local GPs — says it has had virtually no contact with its management.
Now the network has changed its constitution to "delete" FNQ Docs as foundation members altogether.

Pharmacy Issues.

Big Pharma’s had a gutful of PBS: report

  • The Australian
  • September 23, 2015 12:00AM
Frustration among drug companies with Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has reached boiling point with more than 80 per cent revealing they are considering withdrawing lifesaving medications from the system during the next two years.
A new report reveals drug companies are fed up with the complex processes involved in getting their drugs listed on the scheme, with most complaining that the system has got worse during the past two years.
Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed admitted they had considered withdrawing crucial medications from the scheme, and complained Australia’s regulatory system was the worst in the world.
The PwC report, Challenges and Change — a report on the Australian Pharmaceutical Industry, surveyed 23 drug companies, with most respondents based in Europe.

The lowdown on pharmacy’s future

22 September, 2015 Chris Brooker 
Pharmacists must be more directly involved in customer interactions, delegates at the Pharmacy Business Network (PBN) 2015 Conference in Melbourne heard last weekend .
A series of speakers exploring themes such as future technology, professional service, customer service, store layout etc emphasised the importance of customer-focused care.
Here are some of the key quotes from days 2 and 3 of the conference. Click here to see the top 10 quotes from day one.  
  1. I observed 40 customers enter the pharmacy. Not one of them was approached by a staff member, no one helped them. This is a supermarket transaction, not a community pharmacy transaction. Shelley Thomson, Retail 360
  2. Don’t be ‘store blind’ – ie. too familiar with your store and its activity – you need to step back and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Store blindness will limit your sales and success. Shelley Thomson

Drug companies refuse to apply for subsidies that would make treatments affordable in Australia

September 22, 2015 6:43pm
Sue Dunlevy News Corp Australia Network
AUSTRALIANS are missing out on breakthrough new medicines because pharmaceutical companies think it’s too hard to get them subsidised here.
Nearly nine in ten big pharmaceutical companies say they considered not applying for a government subsidy for their medicines in the last two years.
This is up from 52 per cent two years ago.
And half the medicines that do seek a subsidy don’t get approved first time around, down from 89 per cent in 2010.
Consulting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers surveyed 23 drug companies about their attitude to Australia’s drug approval system, and found nearly two thirds thought the system had not improved or had deteriorated in the last two years.

Pharmacy Guild changes line on homeopathy

Serkan Ozturk | 25 September, 2015 | 
Homeopathic products could finally disappear from chemists’ shelves following a declaration by the big pharmacy groups that pharmacists should not “recommend or support” the sale of the treatments. 
In a major shift, the declaration has been signed off by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the lobby group for pharmacy owners that has previously refused to condemn pharmacies for selling quack remedies. 
“Pharmacists should advise consumers that they may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness,” the position statement says.
“Homeopathic alternatives should not be used in place of conventional immunisation.” 
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to the polls and consumer confidence over the next 2-3 months with the present market chaos. I hardly see it improving in the short term even though helped by the new PM.

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