Quote Of The Year

Quotes Of The Year - Paul Shetler - "Its not Your Health Record it's a Government Record Of Your Health Information"


H. L. Mencken - "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Macro View – Health, Financial And Political News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General.

March 01, 2018 Edition.
In Trump world the big news is that the Special Prosecutor has indited yet more and had a few plead guilty to all sorts of financial and other crimes. This really is not going to end well for Trump I reckon and just in the week when Mr Turnbull was visiting!

In OZ the Barnaby saga has fully reached escape velocity and he has fallen on his sword. Lord knows what happens next but one must hope our system has considerable powers of self repair. What an utter fiasco - only exceeded by Michaelia Cash's rabid meltdown on Wednesday! The coalition seems to want to self-destruct!
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Major Issues.


ASIC chief James Shipton: Culture at top of watch list

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 17, 2018
  • Michael Roddan
Culture will remain the top focus at the corporate watchdog, says new chairman James Shipton, who warned Australian businesses of increased legal actions in his first public comments.
Appearing before the parliamentary joint committee on ­corporations, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, where Mr Shipton replaced former chairman Greg Medraft in November, also kept up pressure on the Turnbull government to pursue its payday loan reforms, which have been under attack by backbench MPs.
Mr Shipton, a lawyer at Harvard who worked at the Hong Kong securities regulator and Goldman Sachs, yesterday said he was keen to maintain ASIC’s focus on culture inside large institutions.

Joyce saga a distraction from economic debate

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 19, 2018
The scandals and questions generated by Barnaby Joyce’s personal life, his rent-free living arrangements, his approval of two taxpayer-funded jobs for the woman who is now his partner and his political judgment have distracted political debate from the government’s core business, including economic management. On Thursday, the announcement of another record-breaking month of jobs growth barely registered, despite a further 16,000 positions being added to the economy in January. The result lifted total jobs growth over the past 16 months to 492,000. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison tried to play up that achievement but the Joyce saga was too salacious and politically damaging to be pushed out of the limelight — especially after the slanging match between the Prime Minister and Mr Joyce exacerbated an already parlous situation. Mr Turnbull’s frustration will be compounded today by the 27th consecutive Newspoll showing the Coalition trailing Labor.
The Joyce saga is biting in National Party heartland, especially in Queensland, with support leeching to One Nation. After a stronger showing in the first Newspoll of the year a fortnight ago, the government has slumped back to where it was at the end of last year — trailing Labor 53-47 on the two-party-preferred vote. Mr Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister has been halved from 14 to 7 percentage points.
Unless the Coalition can clear the air surrounding Mr Joyce before parliament resumes in a week’s time, it will continue to struggle to sell its successful economic narrative. When Mr Turnbull meets Donald Trump in Washington this week he will probably hear more about the impact of US corporate tax cuts on business, jobs and wages growth — further boosting the case for the government’s enterprise tax plan to make Australian businesses more competitive.

Equity, bond markets 'wildly overvalued'

Sarah Turner
Published: February 19 2018 - 12:49PM
The equity market may have shrugged off the recent Wall Street correction, but not all global fund managers are convinced market conditions signal a return to easy gains.
Tony Cousins, chief executive of fund manager Pyrford International believes there's "far too much optimism" embedded into wildly overvalued equity and bond markets. "Buying at these levels leads to lousy long-term returns," he said.
As an example of exuberance that could signal that markets have moved too far too fast, Mr Cousins pointed to television commentary proclaiming the robustness of the global economy.
"That's often the case at the market top," he said. "The hardest time to buy equities is when things are bad."

Aussie expats becoming potential collateral tax damage

Michael Pascoe
Published: February 19 2018 - 12:37PM
If the Hockeys were “normal” expat Australians, Treasurer Scott Morrison would be about to whack them with a surprise $1.1 million capital gains tax bill for selling their family home of 14 years.
Add $500,000 for stamp duty on the new house, a conservative $100,000 commission for the selling agents, something for the removalists … the $1.7+million transaction costs of changing Hunters Hill addresses is beginning to look expensive.
Admission: I clearly don’t know how Melissa Babbage (former treasurer Joe Hockey's wife) arranges her financial affairs. It’s possible she has retained Australian tax residency while living in Washington DC for several years. It’s also possible she hasn’t and therefore will be caught in a new CGT trap that has astounded tax professionals for its unfairness and Treasury’s blunt intransigence.
Hang on,” many readers will be thinking, “the family home is exempt from CGT – it’s the most fundamental Australian tax shelter, neither side of politics would be game to touch it.”

Labor has a cancer growing in it that must be cut out

Clive Hamilton
Published: February 19 2018 - 12:10AM
Canberra is finally beginning to push back against Beijing’s long-running campaign to seduce our elites so completely that the nation kow-tows before China’s wishes.
The first phase of the pushback culminated in December with the Turnbull government introducing legislation to outlaw foreign interference operations and novel forms of espionage. Afraid that its well-made plans will be thwarted, Beijing has been making panicky claims that it’s all motivated by “anti-Chinese racism”.
Led by shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, the Labor Party is gearing up to oppose the legislation. Dreyfus says his concern is to protect press freedom, but that is being used to undermine the rationale of the laws themselves.
Amending the legislation to protect democratic freedoms is easy. The harder task is undoing the deep penetration of the Labor Party by proxies for and agents of the Chinese Communist Party. The spectacular downfall of Sam Dastyari was one clumsy instance of a more insidious problem for Labor.

Today, inflation. Tomorrow, crisis?

by Robert J. Samuelson February 18 at 7:25 PM
Anyone looking for good economic news will be disappointed by the latest inflation report, which showed the consumer price index (CPI) advancing by 0.5 percent in January. By itself, this isn’t especially alarming — prices jump around month to month — but it has troubling implications for the future. To some economists, it suggests the possibility of another financial crisis on the order of the 2008-2009 crash.
Until recently, inflation seemed to be dead or, at least, in a prolonged state of remission. It was beaten down by cost-saving technologies and a caution against raising wages and prices instilled by the Great Recession. From 2010 to 2015, annual inflation as measured by the CPI averaged about 1.5 percent, often too small to be noticed. In 2016 and 2017, the annual rates inched up to 2.1 percent. On an annualized basis, January’s 0.5 percent would be 6 percent.
It’s doubtful that many economists believe that inflation is now so high. Remember those erratic month-to-month swings. But the pervasive nature of the inflation suggests that supply is shrinking compared with demand. This enables businesses to raise prices. The January gains, wrote Ken Matheny of Macroeconomic Advisers, were “broad-based, with increases in . . . apparel, used cars and trucks, shelter, medical care services and transportation services.”

Marine numbers in Darwin to rise as Turnbull, Trump talk security

David Wroe
Published: February 19 2018 - 2:54AM
The US will send more Marines and cutting edge Raptor fighter jets to Australia this year amid a growing appetite on both sides to step up military co-operation in Asia to face rising security challenges.
Fairfax Media understands Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump will discuss future Marine numbers in Australia as part of broader talks about security in the Indo-Pacific region when Mr Turnbull visits Washington at the end of next week.
The Trump administration's pick as next ambassador to Canberra, Admiral Harry Harris, told a Congressional hearing on Thursday that the number of Marines rotating through Darwin would jump from 1250 last year to 1500 this year, accompanied by 10 Osprey aircraft.
Crucially, the US will also send more F-22 Raptor planes - the most advanced and deadliest fighters in its operational fleet - to exercise with the RAAF.

RBA keeping close eye on 'pockets' of mortgage stress

Clancy Yeates
Published: February 20 2018 - 11:46AM
The Reserve Bank says there are "pockets" of financial stress among the highly-indebted household sector, and it is closely watching how customers with interest-only loans manage when they are required to start paying back principal over the coming years.
The central bank's assistant governor for the financial system, Michele Bullock, on Tuesday played down the threat to the banking system from high housing debt, saying the risks to financial stability from mortgage debt were "not particularly acute."
Even so, she signalled the central bank was closely monitoring key risks on the horizon from interest-only customers, many of whom could face an increase in their loan repayments over the next few years.
Ms Bullock told a conference in Sydney data being watched by the RBA suggested mortgage stress overall was "relatively low," but there were key risks it was watching closely.

Federal Government is losing the debate on company tax cuts

By The Canberra Times
20 February 2018 — 11:00pm
The Federal Government has a long way to go in its bid to convince ordinary Australians they will benefit from its commitment to reducing the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent by 2026.
This was always going to be a hard sell given some commentators estimate this will take about $65 billion out of consolidated revenue over the next eight to 10 years.
Commonsense suggests that if it fails to create extra economic activity, then other forms of taxation, such as income tax or the GST, will need to be increased or key Government services, such as health, welfare or education, would need to be cut.
The only other option would be to kiss any hope of ever returning the Federal Budget to surplus goodbye.

Treasurer Scott Morrison rubbishes Tony Abbott's call for immigration cut

Fergus Hunter
Published: February 21 2018 - 10:38AM
Treasurer Scott Morrison has rubbished Tony Abbott's call to cut Australia's immigration intake, which the former prime minister has linked to stagnant wages, groaning infrastructure, unaffordable housing and "ethnic gangs".
On Tuesday,  Mr Abbott - who first called for a reduced immigration early last year - proposed a rapid cut from the current level of 190,000 to 110,000.
"My issue is not immigration; it’s the rate of immigration at a time of stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police," Mr Abbott told the Sydney Institute.
"It’s a basic law of economics that increasing the supply of labour depresses wages; and that increasing demand for housing boosts price," he said. 

Don't be fooled by the plethora of brands

Clancy Yeates
Published: February 20 2018 - 10:30AM
If you're taking out insurance to cover the vet bills for a dog or cat, at first glance it looks like a hotly contested market. The Productivity Commission last week reported there are 22 different brands of pet insurance out there.
But here's the catch: 20 of those brands are underwritten by the same insurer, the Hollard Insurance Company.
That is an extreme, but telling, example of what the Commission calls the "illusion of competition" in financial services: where companies fool us into thinking competition is more fierce than the reality, by bombarding us with different brands owned by the same businesses.
And it is not just an issue that affects fringe products like pet insurance.

UN issues blank statement on Syria, says it has run out of words on child casualties

Published: February 21 2018 - 9:32AM
The UN children's fund UNICEF issued a blank "statement" on Tuesday to express its outrage at mass casualties among Syrian children in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta and neighbouring Damascus.
"No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones," the release from UNICEF's regional director Geert Cappalaere began.
There followed 10 empty lines with quote marks indicating missing text, and an explanatory footnote.
"UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage," it said.

Self-interest standing in the way of a fix for the Murray-Darling

Ross Gittins
Published: February 21 2018 - 12:04AM
 Genelle Haldane, my desk calendar tells me, has said that "only until all of mankind lives in harmony with nature can we truly decree ourselves to be an intelligent species". I've no idea who Haldane is or was, but she's right.
And you don't need to be terribly intelligent to realise it. Even most economists get it. It's blindingly obvious that the economy – that is, human production and consumption of goods and services - exists within the natural environment.
The economy is sustained by the natural resources the environment supplies to it and by the natural processes that are part of the human production process. We rely on the ecosystem also to deal with the mountains of waste and emissions we generate.

Mental illness pension cases leading the way

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 21, 2018
  • Rick Morton
The proportion of new disability pensioners who qualified because they have a mental illness has soared to one out of every three cases, but growth in the cost of the payment is almost flatlining.
A report by the Parliamentary Budget Office reveals new projections and analysis of the $814-a-fortnight welfare payment. It shows the pension will cost almost $5 billion less per ­decade than forecast but new recipients with psychological impairments are younger and could stay on the pension for more than 20 years.
The changing “dynamics” mean budget pressures will resume in the long term, the report says. “This is because an increasing number of new DSP recipients are under 40 and more likely to have psychological and intellectual conditions,” the report says. “As most recipients with these conditions remain on the payment until they receive the Age Pension, this younger cohort could remain on (the DSP) for over 20 years. Around a decade ago ... the average period of receiving the payment was 10 years.

Mental illness the latest drag on disability support pension

The government deserves credit for reining in what was out-of-control growth in the cost of the disability support pension — an extraordinary 9 per cent a year between 2008 and 2012 — but further progress will be harder.
Physical incapacity is easier to test than mental, and debilitating depression appears to be increasing, especially among young men. New forecasts show a slowing in take-up of the disability support pension, which provides a maximum $814 a fortnight (for singles) to almost 800,000 people who are unable to work. The number of new recipients with musculoskeletal impairment, also known as a sore back, fell from 32,000 in 2001 to 3500 last year.
But the number of those with psychological and intellectual conditions has surged, almost quadrupling for men in some categories. “Men under 40 with these conditions accounted for three times as many new DSP recipients than women under 40 with the same conditions,” the Parliamentary Budget Office said, noting new recipients aged under 40 had increased from 28 per cent to 40 per cent since 2001.

I’m going to live too long

You might think that if self funded retirees in Australia have roughly four times more money than average retirees then they should be able to look after themselves.
Not so, says a new report from actuaries Accurium ltd, which suggest one in five SMSF operators could run out of cash in retirement. In other words, it seems no quarter of the retirement system offers genuine security for those who wish to have a comfortable — and extended — retirement. Even the rich are at risk.
The median balance among the majority of the country’s two-person superfunds is $1.4m.
  • Updated Feb 21 2018 at 12:00 PM

IMF issues budget wages warning, urges bolder tax reform

The International Monetary Fund has cast fresh doubt over the Turnbull government's wage growth forecasts and again called for more ambitious tax reform plan that lowers barriers to hiring and investment while doing more to tax land and consumption.
Urging the Reserve Bank of Australia to maintain its ultra-easy interest rate settings until wages firm and applauding the current surge in infrastructure spending, the fund warned, however, that Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget repair strategy remains "vulnerable" to weak income growth.
The message was delivered in the final draft of its annual country review, which included a forecast that wages growth would remain at or below 2.9 per cent through 2023 - materially lower than Treasury's prediction for future growth of 3.5 per cent. Annual growth has been stuck at 2 per cent in recent years.
The fund's wages caution is a timely reminder of the Turnbull government's primary budget challenge in juggling its need to maintain the AAA rating by restoring the budget to surplus by 2020-21 while funding a series of income and company tax cuts. Weak wages growth threatens to erode the revenue base required to pay for such promises.

Wages flatline for 10 million Australians despite small general lift

Eryk Bagshaw
Published: February 21 2018 - 2:42PM
Ten million Australians working in the private sector are getting pay rises that are neck-and-neck with inflation, while the pay packets of professionals, miners and retail workers are going backwards compared to the cost of living.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday show sluggish wage growth continues to frustrate the Reserve Bank, the Turnbull government and millions of employees.
The Coalition and Labor will go head-to-head over finding a solution to the country's intractable wage growth problem this year, with the government focused on legislating company tax cuts so businesses can pass savings onto workers, and Labor determined to stop them because it does not believe they will follow through.

Australian Big Business jumps on the Trump tax bandwagon

Michael Pascoe
Published: February 21 2018 - 11:17AM
Compare and contrast: the Business Council of Australia jumping on the Trump tax bandwagon; the Reserve Bank of Australia and the International Monetary Fund being wary of US corporate tax cuts as being a race to the bottom.
The most obvious difference is that the BCA, theoretically representing Big Business in Australia, is talking its own book – the immediate self-interest of its members. The RBA and IMF are putting the bigger interests of a sustainable economy and society first.
Once upon a time, the BCA made important contributions to Australian economic reform – it was born in the 1983 formation of the Accord and for decades provided a valuable voice in policy debates.

Bank CEOs to get one grilling this year

Clancy Yeates
Published: February 21 2018 - 5:04PM
The federal parliamentary banking inquiry appears to set to hold one round of hearings this year, rather than two, as the Hayne royal commission into misconduct in finance takes centre stage.
The new chair of the house of representatives committee on economics, Sarah Henderson, on Tuesday announced that a round of public hearings scrutinising the four major banks would occur in eight months' time, in October.
Last year the committee set up by the Turnbull government held two rounds of hearings, in March and October, at which top bankers were quizzed on topics including mortgage interest rates, ATM fees, and the Commonwealth Bank's run of scandals.

Australia slides further in global corruption index in wake of scandals

Adam Gartrell
Published: February 22 2018 - 5:00AM
Revelations of dodgy donations, travel rorts and the cosy relationship between politicians and industry lobbyists appear to have battered people's trust in Australia's public sector, pushing the nation downwards in a global corruption index.
Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index shows Australia's score has fallen another two points - from 79 out of 100 down to 77 - reflecting growing community scepticism about the integrity of the nation's institutions.
The anti-corruption organisation says while Australia's ranking is unchanged - it remains equal 13th out of 180 countries - its score has slipped eight points since the index began in its current form in 2012.

Relax, there's no need to follow Trump on company tax - yet

Peter Martin
Published: February 22 2018 - 12:04AM
We were mugs to believe what we were told in the election about property prices. The Prime Minister said if negative gearing went and capital gains were better taxed, prices would be “smashed”. His Treasurer said it would “take a sledgehammer” to prices.
Thanks to Freedom of Information, we now know that the Treasury thought the effects were “likely to be small”.
Now they are telling us that a cut in the company tax rate would bring about an “immediate” jump in wages.

Australia's terrorism focus in 2018: Islamic State, al-Qaeda and closer to home

Clive Williams
Published: February 22 2018 - 9:25AM
This year could see China and Russia with a counterterrorism capability to deploy smart killer drones using facial-recognition technology to eliminate persons deemed to be "terrorists". Many such persons would be considered by Australians to be activists, separatists or insurgents - rather than "terrorists".
Some terrorist groups are also using drones, but they are unsophisticated and used for more basic purposes, such as surveillance, collecting intelligence, videoing propaganda footage, and dropping munitions.
While terrorism remains a common-denominator topic at international government meetings, there is still no agreed international definition of terrorism, or consensus about which groups are "terrorist" and which are not. Each nation therefore usually focuses on the groups it considers to be its main enemies.

Suckers suffer as ASX tech push turns sour

John McDuling
Published: February 23 2018 - 12:05AM
Just over a week ago, ASX Limited, the owner of Australia's main stock exchange, boasted of its growing clout as a global venue for tech stock listings.
Tech, up until recently, was all but absent from the market. Now it is the third biggest source of companies on the exchange, an earnings slide deck showed.
Over the past four years, the total market value of tech companies on the bourse had nearly trebled to $63 billion - 3.3 per cent of the entire market, it said.
One week on, tech on the ASX has certainly been in the headlines but for less flattering reasons.

IMF again tries to stir the tax reform pot

The IMF has again offered Australia its thoughts on broad tax reform - advice that will likely be quickly forgotten.
23 February 2018
You can't blame them for trying.
The International Monetary Fund used its annual appraisal of Australia this week to again call for sweeping tax reform - rather than the piecemeal efforts of the past 18 years.
Like similar repeated endeavours by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the IMF has urged Australia's taxation system focus on revenue raising from consumption - in other words, the GST - and land taxation.
This would help relieve the onus on corporate and personal income tax.
But, as with all such well-meaning suggestions, both sides of politics tend to cherry-pick the things they want to hear while ignoring the rest.

'We bought an MDF coffin and painted it': funerals can be dead cheap

John Collett
Published: February 20 2018 - 4:30PM
People who are grieving can fall prey to upselling and unscrupulous practices.
Consumers can be taken advantage of when a loved one has died and it comes to arranging the funeral.
Reports released in recent years point to an industry that is not very effectively regulated, and where the rules vary between states and territories, leaving those grieving the loss of a loved one easy prey to unscrupulous funeral operators.
Terry Clifton, the co-founder of Prestige Funerals in Melbourne, says costs vary enormously and people should shop around, but may not be in a state-of-mind to make those decisions.

Will rising profits equal higher wages?

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 24, 2018
  • Alan Kohler
Over the next few weeks, Australia’s largest companies will gush more than $15 billion into the bank accounts of their shareholders.
The dividend flow will cap off a very solid interim reporting season. There have been a lot more “beats” than “misses” (versus expectations) and half of the companies to have reported have had their forecast earnings upgraded, which is a lot more than usual. And those things are based on genuinely strong cash flows from the companies and upbeat messages from the chief executives about the future.
Of those that have reported so far, three-quarters increased the dividend, which is a clear statement about the current cash flows and the boards’ confidence about the future. Telstra aside (which has halved the interim dividend as it grapples with the NBN), the average rise is about 4 per cent — twice the average wage rise.

National Budget Issues.

February 18 2018 - 3:31PM

Morrison says tax cuts won't risk surplus

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
Treasurer Scott Morrison is defending his plans for tax cuts.
Treasurer Scott Morrison insists anything the Turnbull government does in cutting taxes won't put at risk returning the budget to surplus in 2021.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe told parliamentarians on Friday if the government pursued lower corporate tax rates, it would be a big mistake to do that on the back of higher budget deficits.
"The prime minister and I have both said anything we do on the tax front is not being done to prejudice or put at risk that 2021 projection," Mr Morrison told ABC television on Sunday.
"So we know that rule. We've been sticking to it and that's why we've been keeping the triple-A credit rating."

International Monetary Fund urges Australia to cut company taxes

By Eryk Bagshaw
21 February 2018 — 12:19pm
The International Monetary Fund has thrown its weight behind the Turnbull government's company tax cuts, arguing they would "benefit productivity and reduce inequality".
The emphatic call from the global financial watchdog is likely to heap pressure on the Senate to come back to the negotiating table and consider Treasurer Scott Morrison's proposal to cut corporate tax rates to 25 per cent over the next decade.
Following extensive bilateral discussions with regulators, economists and the government the IMF's Article IV assessment found Australia should reduce corporate and income tax rates and balance the budget through more efficient taxes on land and an increase in the GST. 

Wages rise stronger than expected

Wages rose 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, and rose 2.1 per cent over calendar 2017.
  • James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • 11:37AM February 21, 2018
Australian wages growth came in stronger than expected in the fourth quarter of 2017, lending support to the idea that interest rates might be raised sooner than anticipated.
Wages rose 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter from the third quarter, and rose 2.1 per cent over calendar 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
Economists expected a 0.5 per cent rise over the quarter.
The Australian dollar initially rose 0.2 per cent to US79.01c after the data release before dropping back to US78.91c.

Treasurer Scott Morrison rubbishes Tony Abbott's call for immigration cut

By Fergus Hunter
21 February 2018 — 10:38am
Talking points
  • Tony Abbott has called for annual permanent migration to be cut from 190,000 to 110,000
  • Abbott linked it to infrastructure, housing affordability, wages growth and street crime
  • Morrison says the proposal would wipe out up to $5 billion from the federal budget
Two of the Turnbull government's most senior conservatives have dismissed Tony Abbott's push to cut Australia's immigration intake, which the former prime minister has linked to stagnant wages, groaning infrastructure, unaffordable housing and "ethnic gangs".
On Tuesday,  Mr Abbott - who first called for a reduced immigration early last year – proposed a rapid cut from the current level of 190,000 to 110,000.

While we've been looking elsewhere, our current account deficit got a lot smaller

Ross Gittins
Published: February 24 2018 - 12:07AM
They say a watched pot never boils, so maybe it's a good thing we now spend so little time worrying about the current account deficit. While our attention's been elsewhere, it's got a lot smaller.
This news comes courtesy of the International Monetary Fund's latest country report on Australia, issued this week.
Settle back. The nation's "balance of payments" is a statement summarising all the transactions between Australians (whether businesses, governments, or individuals) and the rest of the world.

Health Budget Issues.


Stronger flu vaccines available to over-65s this year

Australians over 65 will have access to two stronger flu vaccines this winter in a federal move to prevent another deadly flu season.
Flu vaccines FluAd and FluZone will be free for older patients from April through the federal government’s national immunisation program.
A particularly deadly flu strain last year resulted in more than 1100 deaths nationally. Many of the victims were older than 65 and living in nursing homes.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the two new vaccines would give elderly patients better immunity this flu season.

NIB laments ‘soft’ health insurance market

  • Stuart Condie
  • Dow Jones
  • 10:22AM February 19, 2018
NIB managing director Mark Fitzgibbon says the Australian health insurance market is as soft as he can recall after the insurer’s first-half profit dipped 1.3 per cent to $70.9 million.
Mr Fitzgibbon says sluggish wage growth and stiff competition are weighing on NIB, which has posted a decline in net profit for the six months to December 31 largely due to its $155.5 million purchase of corporate health insurer GU Health.
The domestic Australian health insurance market is as soft as I can recall,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

HBF and HCF to merge, challenge for-profit private health insurers

  • The Australian
  • 11:33AM February 19, 2018
  • Sarah-Jane Tasker
Health insurers HBF and HCF plan to merge to create the third biggest health insurer in Australia, as affordability issues continue to impact the market.
The companies have signed a heads of agreement to create the largest not-for-profit health insurer in Australia, which will account for around 18.4 per cent of the market, sitting behind Bupa and Medibank.
The combined entity would have 2.5 million members and total assets of $4 billion.
HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen said if all relevant approvals were obtained, the increased scale and efficiencies of the combined group would enable HBF and HCF to better compete against the for-profit private health insurers.

What HCF and HBF's plan to merge means for health insurance customers

Esther Han
Published: February 19 2018 - 6:29PM
Health fund HCF says it hopes to be merged with not-for-profit bedfellow HBF as soon as August, which will turn the pair into Australia's third-largest health insurance provider, behind Bupa and Medibank.
While the merger announcement was largely welcomed on Monday, the dental industry was scathing, calling the development "dangerous and onerous".
HCF and HBF say if they successfully merge, the new not-for-profit entity will have an 18.4 per cent market share, 2.5 million members and total assets worth $4 billion, and a greater ability to minimise premium increases in the future.

Tsunami of bacteria is on our doorstep

Peter Collignon
Published: February 19 2018 - 7:43PM
When Jane returned from her holiday in Thailand, she brought with her something far worse than a bout of traveller's diarrhoea. She brought home a superbug. And it landed her on my list of patients.
Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to most, and sometimes all antibiotics. They are now causing many common infections in what is a major and growing international problem. Some of these infections have very limited options for therapy and will result in death.
Even when some effective antibiotics remain available, they are often difficult to deliver and very expensive. Often there will be no oral tablets and a patient will have to have their antibiotics through a drip - like Jane did. More importantly these remaining antibiotics can be much more toxic, with sometimes more frequent and serious side effects.

Health Department ‘collusion probe’ into spike in pathology tests

The Department of Health is investigating whether inappropriate financial arrangements are behind the rising number of tests and scans being undertaken on patients in major clinics and medical centres across Australia.
With an ageing population, and demand for costly new interventions, there is concern health dollars must be spent more wisely.
In the private sector, the health insurance regulator has warned that rising costs need to be better managed, while in the public sector a new funding agreement for hospitals has been delayed by an argument over growth forecasts.

WA Health wasted millions, risked billions: Langoulant inquiry

Emma Young
Published: February 22 2018 - 9:11AM
State Special Inquirer John Langoulant has named the contract awarded to Serco for Fiona Stanley Hospital services the single "worst case of financial risk taking for the State" across the entire scope of his inquiry into the previous government's management of 31 major projects from 2008-2017.   
The former under-treasurer examined eight Health projects, five being significant infrastructure projects costing more than $8.2 billion, and while some were considered well managed and good value for money, others were seen as evidence of highly-risky decision making.
While not taking substantive issue with much of the report, WA Health pointed out in its responses that many process improvements had taken place over the nine years the report covered. 

Simple genetic test can avoid tragedy - and should form part of all preconception care

Debra Kennedy
Published: February 22 2018 - 10:09PM
When Rachael Casella was pregnant with her daughter Mackenzie, she chose to undertake myriad tests to optimise the chances of a healthy baby and pregnancy. But at no stage was she offered a straightforward saliva or blood test to see if she was carrying the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 gene.
The couple, who featured in a report on 7.30 on the ABC on Thursday night, lost Mackenzie to the disease when she was just seven months old. They had to endure the slow devastation of watching their daughter lose her muscle strength, her movement, her ability to feed, to swallow and finally to breathe before her first birthday.
Yet such tragedy could have been prevented if they had known about a simple genetic test they could have taken before or when Rachael was pregnant. The test for the SMA Type 1 gene has been available for some time through a pathology company that also screens for cystic fibrosis and Fragile X. Unfortunately it costs about $400 and parents do not receive a rebate through Medicare. And as Rachael and her husband, Jonathan, discovered, most GPs are not even aware of its existence.

UK moves toward making adults presumed organ donors

Richard Perez-Pena
Published: February 24 2018 - 11:27AM
London: Britain took a crucial step on Friday toward making all adults presumed organ donors unless they say otherwise, which would add the country to a growing list of those that have adopted the policy to address a chronic shortage for transplants.
The House of Commons, on a sparsely attended voice vote, gave unanimous approval to send an organ donor bill to committee, where a final version would be hammered out. Though it still could face procedural obstacles, it has the support of a rare alliance of the Conservative government, the leadership of the opposition Labour Party, and the British medical establishment, indicating that chances of passage are good.
"I've seldom seen such a unanimous range of support," said Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour lawmaker who sponsored the bill and who was one of dozens from both major parties who spoke in favour of it on Friday. "This will save lives."

Samantha Armytage's advice on mammograms was misguided

Alexandra Barratt
Published: February 25 2018 - 12:10AM
I have no doubt Samantha Armytage was hoping to save lives when she had a screening mammogram on Channel Seven’s Sunrise to look for breast cancer.
Before undressing for the X-ray of her breasts last week, Armytage, 41, told millions of Australian viewers that one in eight women would develop breast cancer, and that the key to surviving it was early detection through mammography.
By the time Armytage received her false positive result - an all-clear after being called back for more tests when an area of concern was found on her right breast - she was moving beyond BreastScreen’s targeted call for women to start mammograms at 50, by suggesting women start at 40 instead.

Mental illness among Australian children rises, immunisation rates fall

  • AAP
  • 8:10AM February 25, 2018
Australian children are falling behind in immunisation rates while facing rising rates of mental illness, according to a report from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
ARACY’s five-year snapshot, released today, shows the proportion of two-year-olds who have been fully immunised fell from 92.7 per cent in 2008 to 90.5 per cent in December 2017.
With mental illness, the report found that in 2014-15, the percentage of 18-to-24 year-olds suffering from high or very high psychological distress rose to 15.4 per cent, compared with 11.8 per cent in 2011.
The report highlighted the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in particular who “are over three times more likely to commit suicide than non-indigenous youth and more than three times more likely to die of injury before the age of 14”, the ARACY statement says.

International Issues.


'They're laughing their asses off in Moscow': Trump on the attack over Russia probe

Josh Dawsey
Published: February 19 2018 - 2:51AM
West Palm Beach: US President Donald Trump questioned the special counsel's intensifying Russia probe on Sunday while attacking his own national security adviser, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, Congress, CNN and others in a nine-hour span of tweets that included swearing and grammatical errors.
The Twitter tirade coincided with a trip to Europe during which US officials and lawmakers told foreign policy leaders to ignore the President.  
Posting from his Florida estate, he seemed most aggrieved that special counsel Robert Mueller's team had unearthed 13 indictments against Russians on Friday – and alleged that they could have swayed the 2016 election to benefit Trump.
For more than a year, Trump has rejected accusations that he had help from Russia, while firing and threatening to fire law enforcement officials investigating him.

Top US officials tell European foreign policy leaders to ignore Donald Trump

Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte
Published: February 19 2018 - 2:52AM
Munich: Amid anxiety about President Donald Trump's approach to global affairs, US officials had a message for a gathering of Europe's foreign policy elite in Germany: pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.
US lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump's Twitter stream: the United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn't contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
But Trump himself engaged in a running counterpoint to the message, taking aim on social media at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, for not tell the Munich Security Conference that the results of the 2016 election weren't affected by Russian interference – a conclusion that is not supported by US intelligence agencies.

The troll factory: What we know about the 13 Russians indicted by the US

Ivan Nechepurenko & Michael Schwirtz
Published: February 18 2018 - 1:06PM
St Petersburg, Russia: Operating from St Petersburg, they churned out falsehoods on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. They promoted Donald Trump and denigrated Hillary Clinton. They stole the identities of US citizens. They organised political rallies in several states, and hired a Clinton impersonator for one event, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
On Friday, 13 Russians were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on fraud and other charges. Details of their roles in a three-year campaign to disrupt US democracy have begun to emerge from the indictment, other records, interviews and press accounts.

How Trump’s fixer made scandal disappear: tough talk, hush money and tabloids

Jim Rutenberg
Published: February 19 2018 - 3:55PM
Washington: As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.
To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation's leading tabloid news business, American Media, whose top executives include close Trump allies.
Cohen's role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records.
They intensified as Trump's campaign began in summer 2015, when a former hedge-fund manager told Cohen he had obtained photographs of Trump with a bare-breasted woman. The man said Cohen first blew up at him, then steered him to David J. Pecker, chairman of the tabloid company, which sometimes bought, then buried, embarrassing material about his high-profile friends and allies.

The US needs leadership but Trump can't deliver

Nicole Hemmer
Published: February 20 2018 - 12:07AM
You could feel the panic wafting off the presidential Twitter feed.
In less than 24 hours, Donald Trump spit out more than a dozen tweets in response to the sweeping indictments handed down by the Justice Department’s special counsel on Friday. Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies face charges of criminally interfering with the 2016 presidential election. And while the charges did not touch on the issue of collusion with the Trump campaign, the President quickly lashed out on Twitter, attacking everyone from his National Security Adviser to Barack Obama to the FBI.
It was one of those moments that crystallised the crisis in the US: the country has no national leader. And without a leader, it is daily becoming less safe and more chaotic.
The cost of leaderlessness is most clear in the case of Russian interference in the election. For more than a year, the intelligence community in the US has unanimously affirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election as part of a broader effort to destabilise the country. A Republican-led Congress has authorised more sanctions against Russia in retaliation. But the White House has declined to act — in large part because the President refuses to acknowledge the underlying bad act of interference.

Donald Trump orders ban of rifle 'bump stocks' after Florida shooting

Published: February 21 2018 - 8:55AM
US President Donald Trump has directed the Justice Department to write regulations banning the use of accessories known as "bump stocks" that allow semi-automatic rifles to be fired more rapidly.
And his press secretary declined to rule out supporting restrictions on the purchase of AR-15-style rifles such as the one used in a Florida school shooting last week.
The suspect in the attack, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people in six minutes using an AR-15-style rifle that he had purchased legally.
"I signed a memorandum directing the Attorney-General [Jeff Sessions] to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns," Trump said at the White House on Tuesday.

Whatever Trump is hiding is hurting all of us now

Thomas L. Friedman
Published: February 21 2018 - 3:11AM
Democracy is in serious danger.
President Donald Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.
That is, either Trump's real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin - so much that they literally own him; or rumours are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn't want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections - over the explicit findings of Trump's own CIA, NSA and FBI chiefs.
In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he's criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behaviour is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump's refusal to respond to Russia's direct attack on our system - a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any US president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

Western hand in China's grand plan could build trust, UK minister says

Nick Miller
Published: February 21 2018 - 10:28AM
A British government minister has expressed his support for China’s huge Belt Road Initiative and encouraged Australia to do the same, just weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May resisted intense Chinese pressure to formally endorse the project.
British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, told The Australian newspaper that “in his heart” he shared the same concerns as others in the West about China’s BRI, a $US5 trillion ($A6.3 trillion) infrastructure fund.
But the solution was to get involved, he said.
On the weekend Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel joined a growing chorus of BRI sceptics, telling the Munich Security Conference that BRI was an attempt to “shape the world in Chinese interest” and the West should offer an alternative that reflected values of freedom and democracy.
  • Updated Feb 21 2018 at 9:51 AM

How Brexit will make the United Kingdom just like Canada

by Martin Wolf
So where, when the dust has settled, will the UK end up? It will become Canada. It will have a trade relationship with the EU similar to Canada's. It will relate to the EU in a way not dissimilar to Canada's relationship with the US.
It will remain a middle-of-the-road democracy, like Canada, and not become, as David Davis, secretary of state for Brexit puts it, a "Mad Max" dystopia leading a regulatory race to the bottom. Finally, like Canada, it can seek a modestly positive global influence.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, has explained why the UK's future trading relationship with the EU will be similar to that in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or Ceta. This agreement allows both sides to enter into separate deals with other partners. It also puts Canada outside the EU's customs union and single market. Thus Ceta provides limited benefits to providers of services.
  • Updated Feb 22 2018 at 9:29 AM

Trump may no longer be interested in Russia, but Russia is interested in him

Edward Luce
Donald Trump may no longer be interested in Russia, but Russia is interested in him. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has now indicted 19 people — including 13 Russians and five Americans who worked on Mr Trump's campaign.
That was just the start. When Mr Mueller gets round to Moscow's election hacking, more Russians and Americans will surely be added. The Watergate investigation took two years to play out from burglary to presidential resignation. Nine months into the job, Mr Mueller looks to be on a similar timetable.
Familiarity lulls the mind. It is thus easy to miss the enormity of what is unfolding. Mr Mueller is playing a game of chess. Every move is made with his opponent's king in mind. Last Friday, he boosted his defence by nailing Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Do not take Mr Mueller's word for it. HR McMaster, Mr Trump's national security adviser, said Russia's role was "now incontrovertible". That makes it far harder for the president to fire Mr Mueller — something he has tried to do more than once. I would bet Mr Trump now sees General McMaster as a sacrificial pawn.

China challenge 'more subtle and sophisticated' than the threat of war

David Wroe
Published: February 22 2018 - 2:17PM
China has a saying, inspired by the famed strategist Sun Tzu, that the best outcome of any standoff is “winning without fighting”.
Experts say while Malcolm Turnbull is right that China does not pose a direct military threat to Australia, it does excel at the practice of making steady gains that remain calculatedly short of military confrontation or conflict.
The latest instance, some say, is China’s handling of the paradisiacal Indian Ocean nation the Maldives, into which Beijing has poured money as part of its “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. A Chinese naval task group has been in the Indian Ocean while Beijing’s ally, the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, wrestles with a political crisis, prompting speculation the Chinese are propping up Mr Yameen by warding off India from intervening.

Australia and UK must combat Chinese and Russian interference says Tory MP

Latika Bourke
Published: February 23 2018 - 12:46PM
An influential Tory MP says Australia and the UK must lead global efforts to combat Russian and Chinese interference in western democracies because the investigation into Russian meddling has neutered the Trump White House's ability to lead on the issue.
Conservative MP Bob Seely raised the matter with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in London this week.
Writing exclusively for Fairfax Media, Mr Seely, who has just been elected to the British parliament's prestigious foreign affairs committee, said the Mueller investigation would only get worse for Mr Trump, diverting the US' ability to deal with threat of foreign interference.

US imposes largest package of sanctions against North Korea

Published: February 24 2018 - 4:57AM
US President Donald Trump says the United States will impose the "largest-ever" package of sanctions on North Korea, intensifying pressure on the reclusive country to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.
In addressing the Trump administration's biggest national security challenge, the US Treasury sanctioned one person, 27 companies and 28 ships, according to a statement posted on the US Treasury Department's website.
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announced the measures, which are designed to disrupt North Korean shipping and trading companies and vessels and to further isolate Pyongyang.
The ships are located, registered or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and Comoros.

Shadowy far-right fraternities 'infiltrating' Austrian state

Boris Groendahl
Published: February 24 2018 - 2:40PM
Vienna: Austria's new government is allowing secretive groups with links to the far right to exert control over powerful positions in the state, according to former Chancellor Christian Kern.
Kern told reporters that it was the job of his successor, Sebastian Kurz, to halt the creeping takeover by members of fraternities linked to the nationalist Freedom Party, the conservative chancellor's coalition partner.
Kern, a Social Democrat, was speaking after anti-semitic songbooks were found in the possession of two of the shadowy groups, prompting the Austrian Jewish community to boycott official Holocaust memorials last month.
I look forward to comments on all this!


Bernard Robertson-Dunn said...

"Health Department ‘collusion probe’ into spike in pathology tests
The Australian
12:00AM February 20, 2018
Sean Parnell

The Department of Health is investigating whether inappropriate financial arrangements are behind the rising number of tests and scans being undertaken on patients in major clinics and medical centres across Australia.

With an ageing population, and demand for costly new interventions, there is concern health dollars must be spent more wisely.

In the private sector, the health insurance regulator has warned that rising costs need to be better managed, while in the public sector a new funding agreement for hospitals has been delayed by an argument over growth forecasts."

Wasn't myhr supposed to help reduce the number of tests?
Is there any evidence it has had any sort of effect - one way or another?

Anonymous said...

This weeks focus on an ADHA website and evident delays got me thinking. I had all but forgotten this little gem - https://developer.digitalhealth.gov.au/whats-new

It was launched some 6 months ago under a bit of fanfare. What do we have? A site that has little or no traffic, no real updates and the innovation resources are replications of what is on the ADHA main site.

Tim is not exactly getting many runs on the board is he?

Anonymous said...

In my view, based on everything we now know, the ADHA Board under its Chairman are incompetent, naive, and derelict in their corporate governance and fiduciary responsibilities and completely out of touch with what has been going on. So too the Health Ministers. The Federal Health bureaucracy has washed its hands of and distanced itself from all responsibility.