Quote Of The Year

Timeless Quotes - Sadly The Late 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, August 23, 2018

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

August  23, 2018 Edition.
All is not well in the US with the list of unhappy enemies growing by the day. His legal trouble are getting worse daily...We have Turkey, Iran, the EU and China to mention just a few but nevertheless the Trump sails on. Heavens knows what is next….
Brexit seems to simply be getting messier and messier.
In Australia Turnbull is still PM but just (11:30 am Thu) but where he will be when you get to read this is anyone’s guess. You really have to assume a Labor Government early next year…
The FSRC was worse than anyone imagined and there are about 8 million Australians wondering what to do about their super. It is going to be very hard to sort all this out I believe. An awful mess….
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Major Issues.

Why Trump’s monstering of Turkey is dangerous

  • August 13, 2018
After Thailand floated the baht in July 1997 it fell 36 per cent in a matter of weeks, sparking the Asian financial crisis and causing a 30 per cent devaluation of the Australian dollar.
Last Friday the Turkish lira fell 16 per cent, making it 36 per cent in a matter of weeks.
History doesn’t repeat itself, Mark Twain is supposed to have said, but it rhymes. It’s tempting to try to find repetition from 1997 in Turkey’s plight in 2018, and many are now doing so with limited success, but the two definitely rhyme.

We could increase bank and super competition if we really wanted to

By Ross Gittins
12 August 2018 — 11:00pm
Would you like to put your savings in a super scheme presently reserved for public servants? Would you like your bank account or mortgage to be with the Reserve Bank?
Impossible to imagine such a crazy idea? Well, that’s what the Productivity Commission thinks, but it’s neither as impossible nor as crazy as it may sound.
Everyone says they believe in innovation, but when we’re used to thinking and doing things one way and some bright spark argues we should be doing it the opposite way, they’re more likely to be dismissed than grappled with.

Odds shorten on Labor to take out next election

  • 12:00AM August 14, 2018
Bill Shorten is the man most likely to be elected prime minister at the next election: Australia faces a Shorten-led Labor government within eight months.
Coalition hopes of destroying the Opposition Leader or of Labor facing a debilitating and destructive leadership battle are forlorn. Coalitionists need to recognise Shorten is secure and Labor will not implode.
Shorten’s chances at the next election are greater than those of Liberal incumbent Malcolm Turnbull and, perhaps more importantly, Labor leadership aspirant Anthony Albanese.
  • Updated Aug 15 2018 at 11:00 PM

Australia in 'soft power' diplomatic push to win friends and influence people

Diplomats could be encouraged to push back strongly at anti-Australian sentiment through social media as part of a fresh focus on "soft power" in the battle with China for regional influence.
With little fanfare, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on Tuesday the first review of the nation's soft power diplomacy, saying she wanted Australia to remain a "persuasive voice" among neighbouring countries.
As opposed to hard power, which seeks to coerce other countries through military or financial means, soft power relies on influencing the behaviour of countries through "attractive" measures such as business, education, cultural, tourism and sporting ties and exchanges, lifestyle and values, aid, broadcasting and migration.    

Fraser Anning set Australia's Parliament a test. It passed

By Peter Hartcher
15 August 2018 — 7:19pm
A senator made a hateful and inflammatory speech in the federal Parliament on Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday it had already achieved two good outcomes.
By speaking the unspeakable, Senator Fraser Anning shattered one of the extreme right’s most cherished claims to victimhood.
The aggrieved right fringe claims that its views are censored, that it speaks for a silent majority cowed into silence by the political correctness of a minority elite. Anning himself called for the “restoration” of free speech.

'Afraid to use Medicare': Citizenship queue blows out 300 per cent

By Eryk Bagshaw
16 August 2018 — 12:00am
The citizenship queue has blown out by more than 300 per cent under the Turnbull government, leaving migrants who have spent years in Australia without access to students loans, an Australian passport or the right to vote ahead of the next federal poll.
Department of Home Affairs figures show the number of residents waiting to be approved for citizenship has spiralled from 27,000 to 189,000 under the Coalition. More than 140,000 of those have been added while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been in office.
Migrants say they have been left despairing at the situation, putting their study, plans to sponsor family members and apply for government jobs on hold in the midst of a divisive debate in Canberra.
  • Aug 17 2018 at 8:21 AM

Westpac's Bill Evans says low headline inflation could anchor cooler expectations

Westpac's chief economist, Bill Evans, has challenged the Reserve Bank of Australia's inflation forecasts, and posed the question of whether actual headline inflation outcomes have already contributed to an anchoring of inflation expectations at 2 per cent or lower in the real economy.
This is despite the Reserve Bank's 2 per cent to 3 per cent target range remaining intact and firmly endorsed by governor Philip Lowe.
A growing minority of economists believe the Reserve Bank should at least consider lowering the inflation target from the 2 per cent to 3 per cent range because of a combination of greater international pressures on domestic prices, technological change, and a weakening case for Australia to be pegged higher than its peers (who tend to target closer to 2 per cent).
  • Updated Aug 17 2018 at 10:30 PM

Explosive growth of ETFs a boon for investors but there are risks

The ETF boom will create unprecedented investor choice - but it's not without risks.
An expected doubling of the Australian exchange-traded funds market by 2020 will create unprecedented investment choice but could leave those who underestimate the risks of new-style ETFs flying blind into the next market storm.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become a $US4 trillion phenomenon as more investors worldwide switch from active managed funds that aim to outperform, to cheaper index funds that replicate a market return.
After lagging for years, Australia's ETF market is catching up, off a low base. The combined capitalisation of ASX-quoted ETFs was almost $40 billion in July this year, up 33 per cent in 12 months, ASX data shows. Our market is racing towards 200 ETFs.
  • Updated Aug 17 2018 at 11:00 PM

David Goodhart explains the stubborn 'somewheres' now giving Turnbull grief

It's been quite a week. The power struggle between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the man he replaced, Tony Abbott, turned ugly and ominous over energy. Meanwhile, accidental Senator Fraser Anning channelled Hitler and called for a "final solution" to end our multi-ethnic migration program.
To cap it off, recently vanquished deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce seemed to be on the comeback trail.
But where are the connections and what does it all mean? You may well ask

Little pleasure ahead for Turnbull as MPs wrestle to control energy policy

By Peter Hartcher
18 August 2018 — 12:05am
In a ridiculous old Woody Allen movie, Sleeper, his character is cryogenically frozen in the 1970s and wakes up a couple of centuries later. He soon finds himself to be a fugitive from the law.
He disguises himself as a domestic robot and is assigned to serve a rich family as butler. When the family holds a party, the hostess brings out the entertainment - the orgasmic orb.
This futuristic pleasure accessory is a metal sphere about the size of a grapefruit; just touching it is enough to bring on great waves of gratification.

Malcolm Turnbull approves radical NEG redesign in bid to prevent backbench revolt

By David Crowe
17 August 2018 — 5:48pm
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has approved a radical redesign of his flagship energy policy to put a priority on price cuts rather than climate change targets in a bid to prevent a backbench revolt that could threaten his leadership.
The drastic changes will make consumer prices a key factor in deciding the scale of future cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, removing one of the biggest obstacles to a Coalition consensus on the National Energy Guarantee.
The controversial target at the heart of the policy, a 26 per cent cut to emissions by 2030, will be set by ministerial regulation rather than being cemented in legislation to avoid forcing Liberals and Nationals MPs to vote for a climate change target they cannot support.

A decade after the GFC global recovery gathers pace

  • 12:00AM August 18, 2018
Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the worst days of the global financial crisis in 2008, when governments and central banks around the world took urgent action to prevent financial systems from collapsing and to avoid a deep and lasting economic depression taking hold.
Early on, many people expected a “new normal” of slow and hesitant economic growth with sustained low returns on all major asset classes; “secular stagnation” was a widely-held fear. As time passed, however, the upswing in global business conditions continued.
Indeed, it’s now looking a lot more like the recoveries that followed earlier financial crises — initially a slow pick-up, then quickening as confidence rebuilds and as memories of the crisis fade. The main differences, this time, are the exceptionally high rates of return that most asset classes have delivered since the upswing began — in large part, of course, because interest rates fell to such low levels — and the still-low rates of inflation.

Financial Royal Commission Issues.

Banking royal commission: NAB, CBA, ANZ, AMP count the cost

  • 12:00AM August 11, 2018
It was early 2014 when a gorgeous new advertisement flourished on television screens and YouTube. It depicted a handsome older couple in a vintage red sports car high above the ocean on a curving cliff road. There were intimations of Monte Carlo, and perhaps a hint of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly — seductive eyes, hair flicked back, the gold dust of memories and dreams.
It was a new ad from a wealth management company and the closing moment of the sumptuous imagery came almost too soon with the voiceover: “Call your adviser or speak to us. Let’s work together to save retirement.”
The ad might have been accompanied by soft music but there was another ugly chime in the background that would not be heard for years. It was the sound of trust shattering. It would be turned up to blasting point four years later when the dry-eyed Kenneth Hayne presided over a royal commission where the ethics of the superannuation and wealth management industry were exposed for all to see.
  • Updated Aug 12 2018 at 11:00 PM

NAB, IOOF just the tip of the iceberg

"Did you think, yourself, that taking money to which there was no entitlement raised a question for criminal law?" Commissioner Kenneth Hayne asked one of the witnesses.
"I didn't," replied the former chairman of NAB's superannuation trustee, NULIS Nominees, Nicole Smith.
Hayne's words would have chilled trustees across the country, many of whom have sat in conflicted silence around the board tables, earning tidy sums as they rubber stamp a myriad of matters that are not in their members' best interests.

Say yes and bury the truth: how the rot started in Australian business

  • August 13, 2018
The question dominating the Australian corporate world is how did four of our top 10 ASX companies - they happen to be banks - make such a hash of running their operations?
Worse still, most of them tried to conceal their mistakes. To the banks we can add two more ASX top 10 companies who’ve made fundamental errors: Woolworths, with its Masters hardware business, and Wesfarmers, with Bunnings UK. That’s six out of 10. Something is clearly wrong in Australia.
But it gets worse.
  • Aug 13 2018 at 11:33 AM

Banking royal commission: Super sector must do much more for Indigenous people

Before Lyn Melcher went to the remote Aboriginal community of Lockhart River – which sits in more than 3,700 kilometres from the Federal Court in Melbourne – she thought that QSuper treated all of its members equally.
"Although that might be right, not everyone starts in the same place," she told the royal commission on Monday morning.
Melcher, who is the head of technical advice for the board of QSuper, travelled to Lockhart River – one day's journey from Brisbane to Cairns, then another out the community – with Nathan Boyle, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's Indigenous Outreach officer.

Fumigating the financial termites

13 August 2018 — 8:01pm
Continuing evidence to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry suggests this pillar of our economy and society has been beset by termites.
In recent days, former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne’s probe has expanded the potential consequences for the banks; in some cases the wrongdoing has been so egregious it may have transgressed not only corporate statutes, but also criminal law.
The community has a right to feel angry and alarmed by the evidence to an inquiry long resisted by the banks and by the government. Appalling behaviour so far revealed includes charging fees for no service, selling inappropriate products, fraud, lying to regulators, market rigging and concealing commissions. The full list is much longer. Widely published and broadcast testimony being prised from unwilling executives has devalued the banks’ most precious currency, the community’s trust.

High-profile NAB exec escapes with superficial wounds

By Elizabeth Knight
14 August 2018 — 12:05am
It’s rare the royal commission gets to line up a high-profile target. Thus when counsel assisting Michael Hodge had National Australia Bank’s head of wealth Andrew Hagger in the frame, the pressure to inflict injury was intense.
The bigger the scalp the better, the cleaner the scalping the stronger the impact.
It is executives like Hagger, ones that are so closely proximate to the intouchables that run the big four banks, that are prized by the royal commission. These executives might one day make it to the top job, they have media and shareholder profile, they draw crowds, television cameras and big headlines.

RBA governor Philip Lowe ‘incredibly disappointed’ and ‘appalled’ at bank behaviour

Political Reporter
Business Reporter
August 17, 2018
RBA Governor Phillip Lowe says he has been “incredibly disappointed” and “appalled” by the conduct of the nation’s banks exposed in the banking royal commission.
Dr Lowe told the House of Representatives economics committee today that the royal commission had highlighted deficiencies of trust, customer service and risk management in the conduct of the banks.
He said dealing with conflicts of interests in the banking sector must be a priority in the response to the royal commission.
  • Updated Aug 17 2018 at 11:00 PM

Banking royal commission smashes trust in retail super trustees

The juxtaposition couldn't have been more stark.
On Tuesday afternoon, the royal commission finally had one of the big fish of the industry superannuation fund world in the witness box: David Elia, the chief executive of Hostplus, the $34.5 billion fund that topped the returns charts for the 2017-18 financial year.
But Michael Hodge, QC, the senior counsel assisting the commission who led its charge on super, wasn't in Court 4A in Melbourne's Federal Court.
Instead, junior counsel Eloise Dias jousted with Elia, focusing mainly on why Hostplus spends $260,000 hosting employers at the Australian Open tennis tournament each year.
  • Updated Aug 17 2018 at 6:03 PM

Hayne royal commission hearings leave retail super fund industry reputation in tatters

Fees for no service compo may top $1 billion
The reputation of Australia's $600 billion retail super fund industry is in tatters after 10 days of royal commission hearings revealed a conflict-ridden honey pot overseen by regulators unwilling to intervene, trustees unable to, and financial services companies only too willing to exploit the paralysis.
The banks and other companies operating for-profit super funds have also been exposed for thousands of flagrant breaches of the law, including the Corporations Act, the ASIC Act and the SIS Act, with seeming impunity as they squeezed every last dollar out of the mandated tsunami of super inflows.
Counsel assisting the royal commission Michael Hodge, QC, raised the possibility of prohibiting lucrative commissions on super and higher penalties for breaches of the Superannuation Industry Supervision Act at the closure of 10 days of hearings on Friday but stopped well short of structural separation.
  • Updated Aug 17 2018 at 11:00 PM

Super needs some powerful thought leadership to bust myths

After two weeks of damaging revelations before the Hayne royal commission, it would be understandable if Australians started to despair of the compulsory superannuation system.
Trustees of bank-owned superannuation funds were found to have ignored or deliberately worked against the interests of super fund members. In one case, the trustees watched as the for-profit part of the business purloined money belonging to members.
Hayne also heard about the apparent softly softly approach of the two regulators, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. At least ASIC's deputy chairman Peter Kell indicated that the major banks would face civil actions for wrongly taking fees from fund members.

Not so super: How funds, regulators undermined MySuper saving scheme

By Clancy Yeates & Ruth Williams
18 August 2018 — 12:15am
So began an email sent to super fund members by a Commonwealth Bank-aligned financial adviser, ahead of a mid-2017 deadline that was being closely watched in the industry.
The tone was urgent. But the content, the bank admitted this week, was misleading. It was also aimed at influencing what members decided to do with their money.
 “Around three years ago the government changed super legislation and it’s coming into effect now," the email stated.

No Hayne pain for industry super funds

Business Reporter
12:00AM August 18, 2018
It has been a fortnight that has confounded the critics of industry super and delighted backers of the union-and-employer-backed not-for-profit funds.
For three decades, the superannuation sector has been a lightning rod for partisan bickering and ideological turf wars over who will enjoy the spoils of what is now the fourth-largest pile of money in the world.
But in just two weeks of hearings the financial services royal commission has dramatically reshaped the battlefield on which the super wars are fought, handing the industry sector a significant advantage.
While the commission was initially called as a reaction to community anger over the rip-offs and rorts in Australia’s scandal-ridden banking sector, its terms of reference were expansive enough to take in superannuation.

National Budget Issues.

  • Updated Aug 13 2018 at 11:00 PM

Unfocused Treasurer hangs Aussie fintech firms out to dry: Ed Husic

by Ed Husic
I need to start this piece with a startling confession … Treasurer Scott Morrison recently said something that made me pay attention.
A couple of weeks ago, The Australian Financial Review reported that the Treasurer had addressed members of the Australian fintech community and issued a stern demand. He told them he's counting on Australian fintechs "not to stuff up" the implementation of open banking reforms.
With just a few words, he implied that the success of his ideas rested not on the quality of his own work – but on the capability of the fintech community.
  • Updated Aug 14 2018 at 5:13 PM

Bassanese: RBA should lower inflation target

The Reserve Bank of Australia should lower its inflation target as it's too high compared to other developed economies and may be fuelling low inflation expectations given the central bank's tolerance for below target inflation outcomes until 2021. 
That's the view of Betashares economist David Bassanese, who argues that a mid-point of the 2 to 3 per cent band target leaves Australia aiming for a higher level of price appreciation than Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. He suggests a 1 to 3 per cent range would be more appropriate, being both broader and lower.
Projections issued by the Reserve Bank on Friday show the economy won't reach the mid-point of the band until 2021, based on its forecast for inflation no higher than 2.25 per cent by the end of 2020.

How the ATO is nudging Australians to pay more tax

By Nassim Khadem
15 August 2018 — 12:00am
The Australian Taxation Office has started ‘nudging' us to pay more tax.
Tax authorities worldwide have worked out that a nudge - rather than a kick in the guts - is a good way to encourage voluntary compliance, especially since most people  don't deliberately try to do the wrong thing.
In 2016 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) began using pre-emptive prompts – often pop-up messages on people self-lodging their tax returns in myTax – to let taxpayers know if their work-related expense claims appear out-of-step with their peers.
It was a move that Britain’s tax authority - there is a special division unofficially dubbed the "nudge unit" - and others around the world have been using to get people to voluntarily amend their tax returns.
  • Aug 15 2018 at 1:52 PM

Citi: 'severe' drought could wipe 0.6pc from 2018-19 GDP

A worsening of drought conditions in Australia could put market forecasts for economic growth at risk warns Citigroup, wiping more than half a percentage point from GDP growth in 2018-19 assuming the economy experiences a 20 per cent fall in farm production.
The last time farm GDP fell close to that level was in 2006-07, when rural export volumes declined around 10 per cent over two years. A comparable fall today would be the equivalent of a $5 billion reduction in export volumes.
The climate outlook to October which indicates ongoing dry conditions and above-average temperatures puts current agricultural forecasts for production and prices at risk, where production could be lower and prices higher than expected. Citi concludes the forecasts published by The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) are counting on a rise in export volumes and are too optimistic around New South Wales and Queensland winter crop output.

Unemployment rate falls to six-year low of 5.3pc in July

  • By James Glynn
  • Dow Jones
  • August 16, 2018
Australia’s jobless rate dropped to its lowest level in almost six years in July after a strong gain in full-time work was more than offset by weakness in part-time employment.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.3 per cent in July from 5.4 per cent in the previous month, whereas economists had expected an unchanged outcome.
The jobless rate last touched that level in November 2012.

Turnbull government announces efficiency review of the ABC and SBS

Written by Tyler Jenke on Aug 14, 2018
When Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the 2018 Budget back in May, it was revealed that the Federal government were set to undertake a review in regards to the efficiency of the ABC and SBS. Now, the review is underway, with the government ready to go over the broadcasters’ spending with a fine tooth comb.
Overseen by former Foxtel chief executive Peter Tonagh and former Australian Communications and Media Authority acting chairman Richard Bean, the efficiency review is set to look at just how the public broadcasters are spending their funds, and if its in the best interest of the Aussie taxpayers.
“The ABC and SBS are vital public news and cultural institutions that are an important underpinning of media diversity and represent a major Commonwealth contribution to civic journalism,” explained Communications Minister Minister Fifield in a statement.

RBA sees steady rates 'for a while yet'

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe is giving evidence at a public hearing of the powerful federal parliament House economics committee.
Australian Associated Press August 17, 201810:37am
The Reserve Bank of Australia sees interest rates remaining steady for some time, against a backdrop of soft inflationary pressures in the economy.
But the next move will be up, although not until the central bank sees signs of a tighter jobs market and a return to more average rates of price growth.

Health Budget Issues.

Drop 'cancer' label to protect patients from over-treatment, researchers say

By Kate Aubusson
13 August 2018 — 6:01am
Australian researchers are calling for a radical overhaul of cancer diagnoses to reduce harmful overtreatment.
Dropping the "cancer" label from low-risk conditions including localised prostate and "stage 0" breast cancers could protect many patients from unnecessary aggressive treatment and distress, researchers at the University of Sydney and Bond University argue.
Scientists in the US have published research showing that two-thirds of cancers are caused by DNA replication errors.

Selling our genes for medical research

Authored by  Jane McCredie
EARLY in 1951, a young woman called Henrietta Lacks presented to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the few hospitals in the region that would treat African American patients. Sex was painful, she told doctors, and she’d been bleeding unpredictably.
It didn’t take long for the medical team to work out that Lacks had a particularly aggressive cervical cancer, which they treated with the standard radium therapy of the time.
Lacks and her husband were tobacco farmers, struggling to support five young children on land once worked by their slave ancestors. With little formal education, they probably didn’t understand much about the medical system they’d been plunged into and, in any case, it didn’t occur to anybody to ask Lacks’ permission, or even to tell her, before removing cells from her tumour for research purposes.

Doctor, doctor, (don't) tell me the news

By Jenna Price
13 August 2018 — 7:10pm
If you are a straight woman of any age, in a relationship with any degree of permanence, there will be one relationship job you have which drives you around the bend. It’s the job of getting your partner to take his health seriously.
It’s not actually his fault. He’s been trained to not take his feelings all that seriously. Been trained to put his health last. That’s all girly mumbo jumbo.
In a study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Men’s Health, researchers James Mahalik and Faedra Dagirmanjian told it plainly. Getting help is gendered – and that means men don’t do it.

Good profits for private health insurers

  • 12:00AM August 14, 2018
Share prices for health insurers and the private hospitals whose bills they pay are heading in ­opposite directions as slowing claims and pressure to lower the costs of medical devices increases the margins of the insurers.
Shares of NIB Health Funds jumped 55c to $6.25 yesterday after better-than-expected profit margins were predicted to push its statutory operating profit $21 million above the previous $148m.
But Primary Health Care shares fell as it said profits would be at the lower end of its previous guidance of $92m to $97m. The share moves mirrored the steady rise of industry leader Medibank Private and the decline in the country’s biggest private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care, which last month steered investors to the lower end of its previous profit guidance.

Labor’s Leigh in euthanasia push

  • An hour ago August 14, 2018
Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh will today attempt to table his own private-member’s bill that would allow the ACT and Northern Territory to legalise euthanasia.
The ACT MP will ask the government to allow a debate on the bill, which is co-sponsored by Luke Gosling, who is opposed to euthanasia, as the Senate debates a similar bill sponsored by crossbencher David Leyonhjelm.
Caucus this morning voted in favour of a conscience vote on both Mr Leigh’s and Senator Leyonhjelm’s bills.

'Gag order': Doctors 'coerced' and muzzled by code of conduct changes, says AMA

Australia's peak doctor's body has slammed the Code's 'vague' statements that could stifle medico's ability to speak out

By Kate Aubusson
14 August 2018 — 8:00pm
Doctors could be “coerced” into obeying laws that flout medical ethics and muzzled against publicly criticising their profession under proposed changes to the Medical Board of Australia's Code of Conduct, the Australian Medical Association warns.
AMA president Dr Tony Bartone has slammed several proposed changes to the board's code, which governs medicos' ethical and professional behaviour.
He took issue with a section of the code that stated doctors must "comply with relevant laws”.

Half of Australians charged out-of-pocket fees for Medicare services

By Kate Aubusson
16 August 2018 — 12:00am
Patients in North Sydney are charged the biggest out-of-pocket fees in the country for Medicare services including GP and specialist consults, diagnostic imaging and obstetrics, national data reveals.
Half of Australians paid a gap for non-hospital Medicare services in 2016-17, found an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare analysis released on Thursday.
The report comes the same day Health Minister Greg Hunt released Medicare data showing record high bulk-billing rates of 86.1 per cent for 2017-18, a 0.4 per cent increase on the previous year.

Middle-aged Australians most likely to drink to excess

  • 12:00AM August 15, 2018
Middle-aged Australians are the most likely to drink to excess, while young people are more prone to binge drinking, even though overall alcohol abuse is on the decline.
Tobacco smoking continues to fall out of favour. However, marijuana remains the most popular illicit drug, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Alcohol is still Australia’s drug of choice but, on the latest data, more than one in six people aged 14 and over recently used illicit drugs. The AIHW report, released yesterday, showed the proportion of the population regularly drinking to excess fell from 18.2 per cent in 2013 to 17.1 per cent in 2016.

Medicare leaves half of us out of pocket

  • 12:00AM August 16, 2018
Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended the Coalition’s record on healthcare affordability as new figures reveal half of Australians are routinely left with out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare services.
For the first time, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has examined patient costs for non-hospital Medicare services by specialty and region, at a time when rebates were frozen under a policy imposed by Labor and continued by the Coalition.
Although the Medicare freeze is thawing, and Mr Hunt is keen to improve relations with the major GP groups ahead of the federal election, today’s report from the AIHW undermines the Coalition’s position.

Premium increase reforms fail to halt health fund exodus

  • 12:00AM August 17, 2018
Smaller premium increases have not managed to halt the exodus from health funds, with another 57,512 Australians dropping hospital cover in the June quarter.
Amid affordability concerns, Health Minister Greg Hunt and the industry agreed on a series of reforms to keep average premium increases at 3.95 per cent in April this year, the lowest since 2001.
New data shows the exodus not only continued but surged in the months that followed. By the end of June, only 45.1 per cent of the population had hospital cover — the lowest level in eight years.

Doctors demand lift in Medicare subsidy

  • 12:00AM August 17, 2018
Major health groups have called on the Turnbull government to increase Medicare subsidies after new figures revealed patients having to pay more to see a GP, with some choosing instead to go without a doctor’s visit.
While Health Minister Greg Hunt talked up a record bulk-­billing rate of 86.1 per cent, other stakeholders seized on official reports showing half of Australians are routinely left with out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare services.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 34 per cent of patients seeing a GP in 2016-17 paid something; the median gap fee ranged from $12 in western Sydney to $32 in the ACT, while 10 per cent of patients left out of pocket spent $42 or more per service.

Pleas for safe sex as multi-drug-resistant bacterial infection spreads

By Jenny Noyes
17 August 2018 — 9:37pm
Prevention of illness is always better than a cure, and never more so than with an infection that has become resistant to multiple drugs. A current outbreak of the sexually-transmitted bowel infection shigellosis has proven just so, with almost a third of recent cases drug resistant.
Which is why health authorities are pleading with people to use safe sexual practices – and not just when it comes to standard penetrative sex.
Shigella is a highly contagious bacteria spread through infected faecal matter, which means that while anyone can contract it, it tends to be far more easily transmitted through the sexual practices of gay and bisexual men; and use of condoms alone may be ineffective.

Medicare surge forces budget blowout

  • 12:00AM August 18, 2018
Australians are using Medicare-subsidised services more frequently, with a sudden surge blowing out the budget and complicating calls for GPs to be given higher ­rebates.
New data reveals the number of Medicare services per capita rose to 16.8 last year, partly due to a continued rise in doctor-initiated pathology tests. Use has doubled over the past 30 years.
While the Turnbull government has legislated a Medicare guarantee, to reiterate it will cover expenses, the surge reflects the complexity of the system and the challenge of responding to an ageing population and more chronic disease.
The Australian Medical ­Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners this week ramped up their campaign for the government to raise rebates after figures showed many patients had to pay or miss out.

'We need to know the sex. If it’s a girl we are going to terminate it'

By Aisha Dow
19 August 2018 — 12:00am
It is a moment burned into the memory of a veteran sonographer.
A number of years ago, the sonographer was asked by a couple at their scan around 12 weeks to tell them the gender of their developing baby.
“They said something along the lines of ‘We need to know the sex, because if it’s a girl we are going to terminate it’,” they said.
“You have to deal with things like terminal cancer and miscarriages when you’re working as a sonographer. But this occasion, it still sickens me to this day.”

'The walking dead': Toddlers who swallow button batteries

“Help! My toddler's swallowed a button battery." Denise Macfadyen googled this within seconds of her three-year-old son Trent telling her he'd swallowed a tiny shiny battery.
It could be fatal, said the first search result. The second result was the Poisons Hotline. Ms Macfadyen called, and its staff coordinated with Westmead Children's Hospital to ensure Trent was treated on arrival.
Trent was lucky he could say what had happened. Many toddlers and babies can't, and those cases are difficult to diagnose.


International Issues.

  • Aug 12 2018 at 10:36 AM

US dollar strength will determine level of Turkey contagion

It is not news that the Turkish lira is in trouble. Far from it. Last week, the Quartz website published a narrative of this year's difficulties for the Turkish currency told entirely with Financial Times headlines.
They appeared almost comically identical. From "Turkey opts for stable interest rates as lira hits record low" back in September 2013 through to "Turkish lira plumbs new low after central bank's policy tweak" on Monday of last week, it found more than 30 separate occasions when we told our readers that the lira has hit a record low. Perhaps "Turkish lira hits record low (again)" from October 2016 sums them up best.
Later in the week, Turkey's difficulties at last sent waves through world markets and prompted politicians to intervene — to make the situation worse.
When President Donald Trump doubles tariffs on Turkey while saying "our relations with Turkey are not good at this time", and his opposite number Recep Tayyip Erdogan promises to win an "economic war", it is obvious that negativity rules. What is the problem?

Erdogan: How Turkey Sees the Crisis With the U.S.

Unilateral actions against Turkey by the United States will undermine American interests and force Turkey to look for other friends and allies.
By Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Mr. Erdogan is the president of Turkey.
  • Aug. 10, 2018
ANKARA, Turkey — For the past six decades, Turkey and the United States have been strategic partners and NATO allies. Our two countries stood shoulder to shoulder against common challenges during the Cold War and in its aftermath.
Over the years, Turkey rushed to America’s help whenever necessary. Our military servicemen and servicewomen shed blood together in Korea. In 1962, the Kennedy administration was able to get the Soviets to remove missiles from Cuba by removing Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, when Washington counted on its friends and allies to strike back against evil, we sent our troops to Afghanistan to help accomplish the NATO mission there.
Yet the United States has repeatedly and consistently failed to understand and respect the Turkish people’s concerns. And in recent years, our partnership has been tested by disagreements. Unfortunately, our efforts to reverse this dangerous trend proved futile. Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy.

Turkey’s Downward Spiral

As Presidents Trump and Erdogan feud, the alliance between the United States and Turkey grows ever more frayed.
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
  • Aug. 10, 2018
Not long ago it would have seemed unthinkable to add Turkey to the list of countries — including North Korea, Iran and Russia — that the United States had sanctioned for unscrupulous behavior. As a NATO ally, Turkey has a mutual defense treaty with Washington, benefits from American intelligence and hosts American nuclear weapons at Incirlik air base, near its border with Syria.
As August began, however, President Trump named Turkey’s interior and justice ministers as “specially designated nationals” barred from doing business with Americans and gaining access to financial assets in the United States. On Friday, Mr. Trump announced in a tweet that he had authorized a doubling of the steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey.
The object is to force the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to release Andrew Brunson, an American and evangelical Christian pastor who has been imprisoned by Turkey since 2016 on trumped-up charges of aiding an aborted coup by Erdogan opponents.

'He has no idea how markets work': Turkey's stubborn president set to create more financial turmoil

By Benjamin Harvey & Omur Anut
13 August 2018 — 8:34am
Turkey is set for another week of financial-market turmoil: its face-off with the US shows no sign of abating as the policy making vacuum grows.
While officials in Ankara, Istanbul and Washington have the means to stem the mayhem that sent the lira down 25 per cent in the past month, the will to deploy them has been absent, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintaining his defiance toward the US and financial-market orthodoxy in speeches on Sunday.
Pressured by US sanctions and a new constitutional order that concentrates power in Erdogan's hands, Turkey's central bank and finance ministry have done little more than monitor the worst market beating since the rout that took out much of the country's financial sector in 2001. That led to an International Monetary Fund bailout and paved the way for Erdogan's rise to power.

NASA spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet

  • AP
  • 12:00AM August 13, 2018
A NASA spacecraft rocketed toward the sun yesterday on a quest to get closer to our star than anything ever sent before.
The Parker Solar Probe will fly straight through the wispy edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, that was visible during last August’s total solar eclipse.
It eventually will get within 6 million km of the sun’s surface, allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible.
  • Updated Aug 13 2018 at 11:00 PM

How would it look if China was running the world?

by Barry Eichengreen
United States President Donald Trump's erratic unilateralism represents nothing less than abdication of global economic and political leadership. Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, his rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, his tariff war, and his frequent attacks on allies and embrace of adversaries have rapidly turned the US into an unreliable partner in upholding the international order.
But the administration's "America First" policies have done more than disqualify the US from global leadership. They have also created space for other countries to reshape the international system to their liking. The influence of China, in particular, is likely to be enhanced.
Consider, for example, that if the European Union perceives the US as an unreliable trade partner, it will have a correspondingly stronger incentive to negotiate a trade deal with China on terms acceptable to President Xi Jinping's government. More generally, if the US turns its back on the global order, China will be well positioned to take the lead on reforming the rules of international trade and investment.
  • Aug 14 2018 at 9:43 AM

Turkey's taste for external borrowing is ruining investors' risk appetite

by The Lex Column
Financial storms are nothing new to portfolio managers who specialise in emerging market currencies and bonds. Over the past decade each bout of volatility has passed. Turkey's problems are symptoms of more serious problems to come.
For all the hand-wringing, one might well question the fuss. Turkish banks have withstood tempests before, including currency redenomination in 2005. The lira is technically in its third generation in less than a century. Even accelerating annual inflation of 16 per cent hardly compares to the high-double digit increases of the 1990s.
The problem is Turkey's non-financial corporate fondness for borrowing in foreign currencies — equivalent to 35 per cent of Turkish gross domestic product, says Credit Suisse. No other emerging nation comes close.

Much at stake as nice and nasty face off

By Peter Hartcher
14 August 2018 — 12:05am
It started as a fairly routine tweet from an inoffensive source - Canada's foreign affairs ministry. But in just a few days it escalated into a world-class diplomatic clash.
On August 3, Canada tweeted a statement that it was "gravely concerned" about the mounting number of civil society and women’s rights activists being arrested in Saudi Arabia. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them", including prominent women's rights activist Samar Badawi, who has family in Canada. That was all it took.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood Canada's ground, Saudi Arabia went into a rage.

Downward spiral: Turkey's toxic situation has markets spooked

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
14 August 2018 — 10:46am
The famous Lex Dornbusch of financial crises is that they take longer to hit than you think, but then unfold much faster than you ever thought possible.
Every hedge fund in London knew that Turkey was an accident waiting to happen. It was odds-on favourite to be the first of the big emerging market economies - along with Argentina - to face trouble as the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates and drained the pool of global dollar liquidity.
The foreign currency debt of Turkish companies, banks and the state had reached 55 per cent of GDP, roughly the danger threshold in the Asian crisis of 1998. The country had become dangerously reliant on short-term dollar loans to cover a current account deficit of 6.5 per cent of GDP. This left Turkey at the mercy of shifts in global confidence.
  • Updated Aug 14 2018 at 6:34 PM

China's economy cools further as investment growth slows

by Cheng Fang and Kevin Yao
Beijing |China's economy is showing further signs of cooling as the US prepares to impose even tougher trade tariffs, with investment in the first seven months of the year slowing to a record low and retail sales softening, data showed on Tuesday.
Fixed-asset investment growth slowed more than expected to 5.5 per cent in January-July, highlighting weakening domestic demand and faltering business confidence as the US trade war adds to domestic pressures from Beijing's crackdown on debt and pollution.
The pace of investment was the weakest on record going back to early 1996, according to data on Reuters Eikon. Investment had been expected to grow 6 per cent in the first seven months of the year, steady from January-June.
  • Updated Aug 14 2018 at 11:00 PM

America's debt has exploded. Why does no one care?

by Robert E. Rubin
At a panel I recently moderated in New York about our country's unsustainable fiscal outlook, someone asked a simple question: So what? Nothing bad has happened despite immense fiscal deterioration – our debt-to-GDP ratio has more than doubled in less than 20 years, from 33 per cent in 2000 to 78 per cent today, and is on course to reach nearly 100 per cent in 10 years and continue rising – so why worry now?
These are good questions, and they reflect a precept I learned years ago: Substantive fiscal policy work is essential, but all the good policy thinking in the world won't matter unless the politics works. Without good politics, the policies won't be implemented. And the politics of fiscal discipline have not been effectively addressed by too many of those who are deeply concerned about our country's economic future – including me.
Panels such as the one I led bring together the converted. Now, the imperative must be to develop a political strategy, and, in that context, a narrative, that persuades the broad American public that its economic wellbeing depends on getting our fiscal house in order. And that, hopefully, will impel elected officials and candidates to change their approaches to fiscal matters.

The Asian nation Australia needs to embrace

By Matt Wade
15 August 2018 — 12:05am
Ten years ago I moved to New Delhi to be the India correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
India was booming and my brief was to cover the economic and political rise of a nation touted as Asia’s next big thing.
I was part of a wave of foreigners arriving in the historic city as diplomatic missions, multinational companies and media organisations scaled up their presence on the subcontinent.

'In ten years this bridge will collapse': the man who foresaw a tragedy

By Nick Miller
16 August 2018 — 6:58am
"In ten years the Morandi Bridge will collapse… and we will remember the name of whoever said ‘no’ (to a bypass).”
These were the words of a frustrated industry leader in Genoa, back in 2012.
Just before midday on Tuesday, in the middle of a violent storm, a massive pillar of the 1.1km bridge collapsed. An 80m span fell to the ground far below, cars and trucks tumbling with it, killing at least 39 people including three children.
“If there are people responsible they will have to pay,” said infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli.

How Turkey and Trump shot down the Australian dollar

By Stephen Bartholomeusz
15 August 2018 — 2:32pm
In less than a week, the Australian dollar has fallen nearly two US cents against the US dollar as Donald Trump’s decision to impose higher tariffs on Turkey’s steel and aluminium exports to America has destabilised an already-vulnerable economy and sent shockwaves throughout emerging markets.
Those waves have also had an impact on developed world economies as investors have defaulted to a cautious, "risk-off" stance while waiting to see whether developments within Turkey - an economy that represents only about one per cent of global GDP - really do have wider and threatening implications.
It might seem incongruous that global markets might be so concerned about the state of an economy that barely registers on international investors’ radars, and to which international investors have a very modest exposure.

Robots caught in the crosshairs of US-China spat

By Kirsty Needham
16 August 2018 — 5:42pm
Beijing: The trade war between the Trump Administration and China has put robots in the cross hairs, giving a political edge to the World Robot Conference that opened in Beijing on Wednesday.
China's industrial robot output leapt by 68 per cent last year, boosted by the Chinese government's Made in China 2025 program which seeks to replace foreign technology with domestic brands in key sectors.
The World Robot conference showcases the latest in robotic technology, including robots that dance, mix drinks, shoot hoops, play music and fly.

US risks losing struggling Turkey

By Editorial
17 August 2018 — 12:05am
The Trump administration did not create the crisis in which Turkey finds itself but it is doing precious little to try to turn it around.
A decade ago Turkey was often held up as the shining example of a Muslim-majority country with a strong democracy. Sadly in recent years it has lost that mantle.
Turkey's Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been in power for 15 years, has adopted increasingly authoritarian methods since surviving a military coup in 2016.

'Pope is on your side': Vatican calls clergy child abuse morally reprehensible

By Sharon Otterman & Elisabetta Povoledo
17 August 2018 — 4:16pm
Rome: The Vatican says it feels shame and sorrow over the findings that more than 1000 children had been abused by hundreds of priests over decades while bishops covered up their crimes.
The horrific findings were contained in a report released on Tuesday that shocked Catholics and non-Catholics with lurid tales of abusive priests and superiors who turned a blind eye.
"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible," the Vatican statement said.

Why inflation is particularly bad news for the new authoritarians

By Max Fisher
19 August 2018 — 12:15am
Inflationary crises, like the one looming over Turkey, are bad news for any government, but they are especially dangerous for a certain subset of authoritarians: populist strongmen.
They are unusually prone to creating this sort of crisis, unusually inhibited from fixing it and unusually slow to recover. They have, on average, higher rates of inflation and more artificially undervalued currencies. Their central banks are less independent, making them less capable of intervening.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey will boycott electronic products from the United States, retaliating in a dispute with Washington that has helped drive the lira to record lows.
I look forward to comments on all this!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's been reports of large secure shredding bins delivered to the ministerial offices. Phones have been flatout with calls & messages around parliament house.