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 09, 2018

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

August 9, 2018 Edition.
It has been a distressing week for the Trump with the Mueller investigation ramping up, aides and trial and so on. Worse winning against China seems to have recently become a little harder as they fight back with $60B of tariffs  of their own against the US. This is all getting a bit out of hand! They are just getting larger and larger as each day goes by!
Brexit seems still to be a day-to-day proposition with a total lack of clarity on what will actually happen.
In Australia the FS Royal Commission is inflicting more pain and we are seeing the National Energy Guarantee unraveling – what a mess. As of Thursday the NEG is not looking likely to be accepted so where to next. Political cover appears to being offered by talking a lot around drought relief....
Here are a few other things I have noticed.

Major Issues.

Voters give leaders their byelection lesson

By David Crowe
29 July 2018 — 3:13pm
Labor was ready to intensify pressure on Malcolm Turnbull as soon as results came in from polling booths on Saturday night.
Long before anyone conceded defeat or claimed victory, Labor staff were confident enough about the byelection outcome to start reminding journalists of one of the Prime Minister’s claims during the campaign.
“The contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader,” Turnbull had said on July 12. A mere statement of fact, but it was one that Labor could recite more than two weeks later to claim a personal victory for their leader.

Super Saturday revealed voters are hungry for an alternative

By Peter Hartcher
29 July 2018 — 5:40pm
Super Saturday turned out to be merely Status Quo Saturday with no change to the numbers in the Parliament, but beneath the surface a great fracturing is under way.
In all five by-elections on Saturday, the people reaffirmed the choices they'd made at the last election. Untroubled by the fact that their MPs had been ineligible to sit in Parliament because they were dual citizens, the voters insisted that the system respect their votes.
During a press conference Malcolm Turnbull played down Labor's super Saturday byelection victories saying they have nothing to 'crow about' and they haven't 'won the world cup'.

Corrupted Treasury wallows in ‘Big Australia’ Budget lies

at 12:20 am on July 30, 2018 |
If you want a textbook example of how the Australian Treasury has become corrupted, look no further than its analysis on the impact of immigration on the Federal Budget, as reported over the weekend in Fairfax [my emphasis]:
There were 162,000 permanent visas approved in the 12 months ended June 30, a cut from 190,000 the previous year…
Between April 2017 and April 2018 Treasury produced two reports to Cabinet on the financial impact of a cut to immigration…

Why so much money is wasted on the wrong infrastructure

By Ross Gittins
30 July 2018 — 12:00am
It’s the great conundrum of government policy: we have a big shortage of infrastructure, but also waste billions on it.
This seeming contradiction is easily explained: particularly in recent years, and at both state and federal levels, much money is being spent on infrastructure projects.
Trouble is, a lot of the dough’s being spent on flashy or low-priority projects, at the expense of more important but less sexy projects, particularly in the overcrowded outer suburbs.
  • Updated Jul 30 2018 at 7:30 PM

Investors suffer FAANG-over as outlook for US tech giants clouds

Are we in the early stages of a replay of the 2000 dot.com bust?
That's the big question for investors after Facebook's shocking share price plunge last week – which wiped out a record $US119 billion in market value in a single day – after the social media giant warned of slowing user and advertising sales growth.
Facebook's misstep sent a shudder through the FAANGS (an acronym for the US tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet), as investors began to question whether they'd been correct to assume that their stunning growth rates could be continued indefinitely.
Analysts have been warning for some time that investors have been predicting an overly rosy future for the FAANGs.
  • Jul 30 2018 at 10:00 PM

AFR Innovation Summit: Call to arms on AI

It's not going to be easy for Australia to develop a thriving artificial intelligence industry.
The small population means the supply of data to feed machine learning algorithms is limited.
And compared to China and the United States, who are engaged in a global trade battle over AI supremacy, the level of both government and corporate investment in the emerging technology is minuscule. 
This could be problematic for the country given artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on all industries and affect both white- and blue-collar jobs. 

An island of wellbeing in a tide of democratic disintegration

By Peter Hartcher
31 July 2018 — 12:05am
The world has been classified as suffering a "democratic recession" for a decade now and in the past week it got worse.
Sure, Cambodia and Pakistan have not exactly been paragons of liberal democracy in modern times but they've been counted among democratic states nonetheless.
Yet their elections last week were manipulated very blatantly to produce the result to suit the strongest force in each country.
These elections illustrate two of the trends besetting democratic efforts worldwide today. First is that "strong man" types and militaries have got smarter about the way they override the people's choice.

Foreign Affairs ministry opts for secrecy over China infrastructure agreement

By David Wroe
30 July 2018 — 8:27pm
The Turnbull government has refused to release an agreement it signed with China covering the controversial “Belt and Road Initiative” infrastructure program on the grounds Beijing does not want it made public.
Trade Minister Steven Ciobo signed the memorandum of understanding last September for cooperation on building infrastructure such as roads, bridges and dams in third countries - including under the Belt and Road Initiative - during a visit to Beijing.
The BRI is a web of infrastructure that spans continents. What is China's motive?

Young Australians increasingly divided as dreams of home-ownership dim

By Jessica Irvine
30 July 2018 — 6:17pm
Young Australians - those aged under 35 – have experienced the sharpest increase in wealth inequality of any age group, a new report reveals.
It is well known that two successive property booms over the past two decades have opened up a yawning gap in the average wealth of younger and older Australians.
But a new report, released on Tuesday by the Australian Council of Social Services and the University of NSW, exposes the extent to which fortunes are also diverging between younger Australians.
  • Updated Jul 31 2018 at 8:26 AM

What economists still don't get about the 2008 crisis

by Noah Smith
Macroeconomics tends to advance - or, at least, to change - one crisis at a time.
The Great Depression discredited the idea that economies were basically self-correcting, and the following decades saw the development of Keynesian theory and the use of fiscal stimulus.
The stagflation of the 1970s led to the development of real business cycle models, which saw recessions as the efficient working of the economy, and central bank meddling as likely only to cause inflation.
  • Jul 31 2018 at 4:55 AM

US exits 'new normal': Mohamed El-Erian

by Luke Kawa and Jonathan Ferro
New York | Americans can wave goodbye to the "new normal", according to the man who popularised the term.
Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian says the world's largest economy has finally broken out from its post-crisis malaise.
"The US on a standalone basis has exited this new normal, is now finding a higher growth equilibrium, 2.5 to 3," he said in an interview.

Morrison stands by company tax cuts in new push for Senate vote

By David Crowe
31 July 2018 — 5:59pm
Treasurer Scott Morrison has vowed to take the government’s company tax cuts to another vote in parliament within weeks in what could be a make-or-break decision that clears the ground for a policy rethink if the Senate blocks the changes.
Mr Morrison insisted the government would proceed with the $35.6 billion tax cut for big companies over ten years despite growing signs of nerves among his colleagues over the Labor attack on the plan.
“We took it to the last election, we won that election and we’ve continued to seek to legislate and nothing has changed,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.
  • Updated Jul 31 2018 at 10:24 PM

China to send a frigate to Australia for military exercises

A Chinese warship will take part in naval training drills off the coast of Darwin this year despite the prolonged tensions in the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Canberra.
The Australian Financial Review can reveal a Chinese frigate will participate in Exercise Kakadu in September, the Australian navy's major biennial series of war games that brings together fleets and thousands of personnel from Asia and Pacific nations.
Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed China was among 27 nations invited to participate in the exercises.
"There are no plans for China to participate in live-fire activities. China is expected to participate in a range of activities including passage exercises, inter-ship communications and replenishment activities, and sea-training manoeuvres," Senator Payne said.

Young people bearing the brunt of a weak economy

By Ross Gittins
31 July 2018 — 6:50pm
Without wanting to be branded a class traitor, I have to admit that we Baby Boomers have enjoyed a rails-run in the race of life.
Most of us had little trouble getting ourselves set up in the jobs market and then the housing market. I look at today’s bright and bushy-tailed youngsters, just starting out in both markets, and don’t envy them one bit (except, of course, their instinctive understanding of the right place to click on a webpage).
(Just to protect my back: those Baby Boomers who were conscripted, or ended up in Vietnam, didn’t have it easy. Nor should those who’ve come after us imagine all Baby Boomers are rolling in it, have never been unemployed, never paid uni fees nor suffered bad luck.)

Housing market falls gather momentum as Melbourne leads monthly falls

Elizabeth Redman

  • An hour ago August 1, 2018
The housing downturn is gathering pace as the Melbourne market comes off the boil and prices drop for the most expensive homes across the east coast capitals.
National house prices fell for the 10th consecutive month in July, according to CoreLogic figures released today, with the 0.6 per cent month-on-month fall bringing the annual decline to 1.6 per cent — the fastest rate since August 2012.
The housing market has been cooling for several months after a regulatory clampdown that has seen banks restrict lending to investors or riskier borrowers and conduct more thorough assessments before making loans.

Turnbull’s landscape of rocks and very hard places

Paul Kelly - Editor-at-Large
  • 12:00AM August 1, 2018
The Turnbull government is now trapped in the conflict between its beliefs and public opinion — a nasty place for any government — which means it faces the near ­untenable task of compromising its beliefs or turning its back on public sentiment.
Labor is now pushing Malcolm Turnbull into a risky lose-lose scenario over corporate tax cuts. In the hysterical and mad climate that is Australian politics — with Bill Shorten supposedly under dire threat one week and Turnbull supposedly in crisis the next — there are three truths about the tax cuts.

Corporate tax cuts are politically difficult, says Scott Morrison, but good for the economy

By Eryk Bagshaw
1 August 2018 — 12:08pm
Treasurer Scott Morrison has warned one byelection result should not be enough to undo the Turnbull government’s signature economic policy, hours after Peter Dutton became the first cabinet minister to reportedly question whether the company tax cuts should be taken to the next election.
Mr Dutton’s electorate of Dickson borders Longman where the government suffered a 9.4 per cent swing against it on first preferences on Saturday.
Griffith University election analysts have warned the Home Affairs Minister “has a real problem on his hands” trying to hold onto the outer-suburban seat.

Thin pickings if Coalition scraps remaining company tax cuts

David Uren - Associate Editor (Economics)
  • 12:00AM August 2, 2018
The Coalition would not reap a budget bonanza by scrapping the remaining company tax cuts, with the big savings not hitting the bottom line until after the next three federal elections.
The government has been coy about revealing the cost of the various phases of its tax plan, but it has said enough to show that the cost soars in the final years of the rollout.
When the package was announced in the 2016-17 budget, the 10-year cost was estimated at $48.7 billion.
  • Updated Aug 3 2018 at 12:15 AM

New Minerals Council boss vows technology-neutral energy policy

New Minerals Council chief Tania Constable has vowed to take a "technology-neutral" approach to climate and energy policy, signalling the pro-coal agenda run by her predecessor Brendan Pearson is dead.
In her first interview since assuming one of the most powerful roles in Australian industry, Ms Constable highlighted cuts to corporate tax rates and project approval processes among her top priorities, and did not rule out a television advertising campaign before the federal election to get the MCA's views across.
Mr Pearson was famously ousted from the role when BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto expressed concerns with the MCA's messaging on coal, energy and climate policy, particularly its campaign for a new high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power station to be built in Australia.
  • Updated Aug 2 2018 at 11:00 PM

'Social licence' company requirement could be hijacked by interest groups

The loaded phrase of "social licence to operate" contained in a proposed overhaul of corporate governance recommendations could easily be hijacked by interest groups, according to the high-powered body which oversees the interests of about 7000 company secretaries, directors and governance professionals.
The Governance Institute of Australia is one of dozens of organisations to have made submissions in the consultation process by the ASX's council and says it is broadly behind the retention of eight key underlying principles in previous versions, but it is worried they may become too prescriptive and be viewed as getting closer to being black-letter law.
Governance Institute chief executive Steve Burrell said on Thursday the principles shouldn't be a de facto extension of the legal responsibilities of companies. He said one of the concerns that members had raised was in the use of the phrase "social licence to operate" in a draft of principles.
  • Updated Aug 3 2018 at 11:00 PM

Vanguard's investment lessons from the markets

The overarching lesson of looking at 30 years of financial asset price history is that there are gyrations, but over the long term they can build a lot of wealth.
In an era of Twitter diplomacy and 24-hour news, the challenge of lifting oneself above the daily hustle is ever more difficult.
Take this week, when one day started with Bloomberg reports of renewed trade dialogue between the US and China. Good news – and markets went up. Just hours later, that story was trumped by the US administration's threats to impose even heavier tariffs. Markets went down.
In other words, it's perhaps never been more important to take a step back and see the bigger picture. To that end, investment management group Vanguard has put together historical data tracking the performance of $10,000 invested 30 years ago in a variety of asset classes.

SAS ethics 'deeply compromised' by Afghanistan failings

By Nick McKenzie & Chris Masters
3 August 2018 — 10:47pm
A former head of Australia's special forces expressed fears that some of the nation’s most elite SAS Regiment and Commandos soldiers were “deeply compromised” ethically and their command "not fit for purpose".
In a blistering secret briefing, the then Special Operations Commander Major General Jeff Sengelman attacked a collapse of leadership, "tribalism", government policy that exhausted special forces through multiple deployments to Afghanistan, and a failure by individuals to take responsibility for their actions.
The report went to the then recently appointed defence force chief, Angus Campbell who seized on Mr Sengelman’s advice to commission a major quasi-judicial inquiry into “rumours” of alleged breaches of the laws of armed conflict involving special forces in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2016.

Australian politics seems stuck in Punch and Judy mode

By Peter Hartcher
4 August 2018 — 12:05am
Malcolm Turnbull was determined to not panic at his party's lousy performance in the weekend byelection in Queensland. "The Tory party never panics," an adviser to Margaret Thatcher once said in reference to the Liberal party's English analogue, "except in a crisis".
The result disturbed many in the Coalition, but it's not a crisis, not yet at least.
If the collapse of its primary vote to below 30 per cent in the south-east Queensland seat of Longman turns out to be a sign of a wider problem for the government in that state, then it may well be time to panic. Queensland is the crucible of the contest.

'No rush': Craig Kelly demands details of additions to energy plan

By Peter Hannam
3 August 2018 — 6:14pm
A key government backbencher has warned that the impacts of any last-minute changes to the proposed National Energy Guarantee need to be made clear before the energy deal can be approved by Coalition MPs.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who chairs the Coalition's backbench energy committee, told Fairfax Media he planned to seek changes to the scheme when it reaches the federal party room on August 14 - assuming the COAG energy ministers sign up for it next week.
Mr Kelly was responding to reports Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had agreed to incorporate elements of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's final report on electricity prices into the guarantee.

'Low-growth trap': Weak investment is what's crimping productivity

By Ross Gittins
4 August 2018 — 12:15am
US President Donald Trump said his big cut in company tax would do wonders for the economy. It’s certainly done wonders for company share buybacks. Which may be a clue to why America’s rate of improvement in productivity is so pathetic.
The continuing puzzle for the rich world’s economists is explaining the unusually weak rate of productivity improvement throughout the advanced economies. In Oz we’re not doing so badly, though we used to do a lot better.
Productivity measures the quantity of the economy’s (or just a particular business’s) output of goods and services relative to its inputs of raw materials, labour and capital equipment.

Australia needs a raise': wage-earners have rarely collected a smaller share of the economy

By Matt Wade
Updated 3 August 2018 — 4:08pm first published at 3:56pm
Things were so different in the 1970s. Safari suits were in fashion, the Holden Kingswood was a best-seller and Australia still qualified as a workers' paradise.
One statistic shows how good things were for wage earners back then: the proportion of national economic output being paid to workers was at an historic high.
That “labour share” – as economists call it – had climbed steadily during the post-war Menzies era and peaked at just over 58 per cent of gross domestic product in 1975.

The five things we can't answer about the National Energy Guarantee

By Cole Latimer & Peter Hannam
3 August 2018 — 5:05pm
The National Energy Guarantee will face one of its last major tests in August, yet despite nearly a year of development, there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Will the policy work?

The Energy Security Board, which includes the main energy regulators, has spent the past eight months coming up with a scheme it says will reduce power prices, bolster grid stability and meet a "pro-rata" reduction in carbon emissions in line with Australia's Paris climate pledges.
The board thinks it has created a scheme that will meet its goals without generating a carbon price that would be political Kryptonite to the Coalition party room. Others think a shadow price will soon emerge.

Bonds look attractive as loss of franking credits could take shine off shares, hybrids

  • By Elizabeth Moran
  • 12:00AM August 4, 2018
Loss of franking credits is a game changer.
The by-elections last Saturday should serve as a warning to investors reliant on franking credits for income. Significant swings to Labor while the Liberals stand by corporate tax cuts increase the chance of a Labor victory and, with it, Labor’s stated policy of removing franking credit refunds to investors who do not pay tax.
Shares and hybrids would then become relatively less attractive to investors.
The shares would lose some of their shine, but I’d expect investors to largely keep holding them, with bank dividends around 5-6 per cent per annum, still deemed “attractive enough”.

Should think tanks be forced to disclose their funders?

By Simon Cowan
4 August 2018 — 12:00am
Should think tanks be forced to disclose their funders in order to participate in public debate?
Some believe so: ABC TV’s The Drum host Julia Baird wrote last weekend “it would be far better if think tanks were legally required to reveal all funding, so we can best assess contributions to public debate".
Quentin Dempster and David Marr both made similar points in recent times. Georgina Downer also copped a grilling on Monday’s The Drum from host Ellen Fanning over Gina Rinehart’s donations to the Institute for Public Affairs.

Stacey avoids bankruptcy as more tip over the edge

By John Collett
5 August 2018 — 12:10am
Stacey Barrass was within months of personal bankruptcy after a relationship break-up left her with about $100,000 in debts.
The single mother of three boys, the oldest aged 16, says she had, and still has, a large mortgage and had to take drastic measures in order not to lose her home.
Barrass, 47, received some budgeting advice and tips on how to negotiate with her bank from a neighbour, who is a friend and also a financial adviser.

Financial Royal Commission Issues.

How Hayne inquiry destroyed Turnbull’s economic policy

Alan Kohler

  • 6:22AM July 30, 2018
It looks like the real casualty from the by-elections on Saturday is the government’s sole economic policy, the company tax cut.
That’s the trouble with having only one economic policy — it’s like investing all your eggs in one basket. If it goes down, you’re toast.
And the company tax cut has turned into a failed investment for the Coalition because it has been destroyed by the banking royal commission. Of course, revelations about shonky behaviour by the banks and AMP have nothing to do with whether giving large companies a tax cut is good for jobs and growth or not, but such subtleties are irrelevant in politics.
  • Updated Jul 31 2018 at 11:00 PM

Hayne will show just how broken super governance is

by Angus Armour
The standard disclaimer that "past performance does not predict future results" applies as much to Australia's superannuation system as it does to individual assets. And with $2.6 trillion in assets in the system, we need the highest standards in place to safeguard the interests of Australians who rely on those results.
Next week the Hayne royal commission will almost undoubtedly hear about poor governance practices across the superannuation sector. Without pre-empting the commission's important work, there is already enough evidence on the table to suggest  substantive reform is required.
Two recent reports, by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Productivity Commission, have uncovered weaknesses and suggested that stronger governance is essential to better member outcomes. These reports did not examine industry or retail funds in isolation. Their recommendations are relevant to almost all of us, regardless of whether our retirement savings are with a retail or industry fund.

Treasurer Scott Morrison calls for new banking era

By Eryk Bagshaw
3 August 2018 — 12:01am
The Turnbull government will open up a new battlefront with the big four banks, accuse them of exploiting loyal customers and warn change is set to sweep through the industry when it releases a year-long report into the industry on Friday.
Declaring "power needs to be put back in the hands of the consumer," Treasurer Scott Morrison will tell a business audience that "too often we have also become willing participants in a game where the deck is stacked against us".
The release of the Productivity Commission's final report into competition in financial services on Friday is expected to call the "four pillars" policy a relic and warn stability has come at the cost of competition for consumers.

Royal commission shows no need to water down company laws, say lawyers

By Sarah Danckert
1 August 2018 — 5:22pm
The banking royal commission has shown that Australia should not water down its continuous disclosure regime to make it easier for listed companies to avoid class actions, according to the country’s biggest class action outfit.
Maurice Blackburn said in a lengthy submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission review of how class actions are funded that powerful business interests were pushing to change when and how a company reported bad news to the investors.
 “It is hard to look at the litany of corporate misconduct issues coming out of the Banking Royal Commission and conclude that the way to instil greater integrity in the market is to demand lower disclosure standards from corporate Australia,” Maurice Blackburn class action principal lawyer Julian Schimmel said.

Productivity Commission urges Canberra to rein in ‘opaque’ banks, insurers

  • August 3, 2018
The government has been urged to destroy the market power of Australia’s biggest banks and insurers, as the Productivity Commission condemned the “persistently opaque pricing”, “conflicted advice” and regulations that “support larger incumbents”.
That trailing commissions offer “no evident link to customer best interests” and should be banned from the mortgage broking industry is one of numerous recommendations made by the government’s policy adviser following a lengthy review of competition in the financial system.
The scathing review also said all banks should appoint an internal integrity officer, who would report to the corporate watchdog if companies failed to heed warnings about payments that conflicted with a customer’s best interest.

Super: the $1m difference between retail and industry funds

  • 3:01PM August 2, 2018
The $2.6 trillion super industry has on average delivered poor returns over the past two decades due to the underperformance of super funds run by the Big Four banks and major financial institutions, costing the nation more than $12 billion a year, according to an expert submission to the Productivity Commission.
The detailed report by analyst Wilson Sy, formerly a principal researcher with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, says the poor performance is “largely attributed” to for-profit retail funds, which have delivered returns well below market rates.
According to the report, filed with the Productivity Commission on July 23, retail funds delivered an average return of 4.6 per cent a year, compared to an average 6.7 per cent for “industry” or not-for-profit funds.

Counting the cost of the public service ‘$10m club’

  • 8:08AM August 3, 2018
Australian federal politicians, both Coalition and ALP, are showering money on people with disabilities, health, education, defence and other “worthwhile” causes including tax reduction.
But few of the people who are currently receiving that money or who have been pledged it in the future realise that unless Australia is very prosperous in the decades ahead their money is in grave danger.
Australia’s senior public servants have engineered massive benefits, including obvious rorts, that are not funded and will need to be paid from future revenues. The anomalies have been highlighted by the so called “ten million dollar club”---the public servants whose “entitlements” have a market worth of more than $10 million but who engineered massive reductions in the superannuation entitlements of ordinary Australians.

National Budget Issues.

Catholic schools consider a repeat of Longman intervention

By David Crowe
29 July 2018 — 5:29pm
Catholic school leaders are considering a national strategy to repeat a critical intervention in the Longman byelection campaign, flexing their muscle as they demand a better school funding deal from the Turnbull government.
Catholic education authorities believe their move on Friday to alert 2000 parents to the funding problems helped tip the balance in the Queensland seat, setting a template that could be taken to the general election.
The letter to parents told them Labor was committed to giving Catholic schools nationwide a $250 million funding increase over two years, in addition to increases already set in legislation.

Health Budget Issues.

Australia's healthcare system saved my life

By Roqayah Chamseddine
29 July 2018 — 9:12pm
During a routine eye examination a few years ago in Sydney, I was rushed into an ophthalmologist's office after he had gone over a picture of my optic nerves. “There's something there, but I can't give you a definitive answer because you'll need brain scan. Now, I don't want you to worry but one of the possibilities here is a brain tumour.”
His voice trailed off with the kind of cinematic fog that hits the protagonist after a life-altering revelation. I went in thinking I would need an updated prescription for my eyeglasses at most and walked out with the words “a brain tumour” seared into my mind.
In the weeks that followed I had scans, a spinal tap, and follow-ups with a neurologist. Despite my familiarity with Australian healthcare on paper, it was my first time entering the system, and during every step I found myself overwhelmed by one thing: my care was free at the point of service.

Health system neglects vulnerable Australians: Grattan Institute report

Sean Parnell

  • 9:37AM July 30, 2018
Vulnerable Australians are being neglected by a primary health system that is poorly integrated, lacks direction and performance targets, and can be difficult to access, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute.
While the Commonwealth’s partial, and staged, thaw of the Medicare freeze has eased some financial concerns, there are calls for larger funding and structural reforms to ensure primary care can cope with the growing chronic disease burden.
The institute has today put forward the case for an overhaul of general practice, pharmacy, allied health, maternal and child and women’s health, arguing “primary care policy in Australia is underdone (as) neither the Commonwealth nor the states have taken the lead”.

First fall in hospital cover since 2003

Andrew White

  • 12:00AM July 31, 2018
The first annual fall in the number of Australians with private hospital cover since 2003 has highlighted continuing concerns about health costs that emerged as a significant factor in last weekend’s Super Saturday by-elections.
Another round of above-inflation annual increases in private health insurance costs drove a net 22,000 people to abandon private hospital cover in 2017 and has sent the government and opposition scrambling to fashion policies to contain further rises.
Following its “Mediscare” campaign in the 2016 election, Labor campaigned in the by-elections on health funding versus the government’s plan to cut corporate tax rates. It has also promised to cap future rises in private health insurance premiums at 2 per cent to reduce pressure on the family budget.

‘Data plan’ to help patients pick hospitals

  • 12:00AM August 1, 2018
Patients would be given more useful data to help them choose a hospital based on performance under plans to fast-track new safety and quality reporting ­arrangements.
Ahead of a Council of Australian Governments health council meeting on Friday, Health Minister Greg Hunt has written to his state and territory counterparts calling for changes that would “allow patients to make more informed choices about their care”.
“It is widely accepted that ­patients, their families and carers need to be at the centre of the health system,” Mr Hunt wrote in the letter obtained by The Australian.

Townsville mosquito trial hailed a success

Australian researchers believe a lack of dengue fever cases in Townsville proves the success of using a bacteria to control mosquito-borne disease.
Ed Jackson
Australian Associated Press August 1, 20182:12pm
Researchers are confident they've found a cost-effective and quick way for communities to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases.
Monash University says there hasn't been a single case of locally transmitted dengue fever in the past four rainy seasons in Townsville since mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria were released in the north Queensland city.
The university's World Mosquito Program is investigating the practicality of using Wolbachia to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Turnbull government faces calls for more dental funding

  • 10:15AM August 2, 2018
An election year stoush over dental funding looms large for the Turnbull government, with Liberal allies in NSW joining several Labor states demanding a better deal for the public sector.
The Australian understands NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard will today call on the Council of Australian Governments Health Council to “urgently” negotiate a new agreement on dental services.
The current agreement will end on June 30, 2019, and access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule will cease six months later.
By contrast, the public hospital agreement does not end until June 30, 2020 but negotiations started months ago, with only Queensland and Victoria yet to sign a heads of agreement.

Study to probe claims of health ‘cost-shifting’

  • 12:00AM August 3, 2018
The contentious issue of public hospitals billing health insurers has reignited, with the states ­demanding independent research to test federal claims about the ­nature of the problem.
With insurers covering more than $1.1 billion in public-hospital treatment their members might otherwise be entitled to for nothing, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has called on the states to focus on public patients languishing on waiting lists.
Mr Hunt and insurers accuse the states of cost-shifting, pushing up health-insurance premiums. Mr Hunt has made reform a key part of the heads of agreement on public hospital funding signed by all states except Queensland and Victoria.
But a South Australian analysis suggests other factors, such as out-of-pocket costs and changes in coverage, are driving health-fund members to public hospitals.

Shorten's private health premium cap: bad policy or 'circuit breaker'?

By Nassim Khadem
4 August 2018 — 12:01am
The private health industry lobby is out in full swing.
Big and small private health fund chiefs and industry lobby groups have descended on Canberra in recent weeks to meet with the offices of Labor leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King over Labor’s proposed cap on private health insurance premiums.
In a classic hip-pocket policy pitch, the Labor party has promised that, if elected, it will introduce a two-year 2 per cent premium cap and launch a Productivity Commission inquiry into the industry.

Private Health Insurance 'excluding benefits under the radar'

By Nigel Gladstone & Esther Han
4 August 2018 — 10:30pm
Doctors are warning that the federal government's private health insurance reforms may push patients onto public hospital waiting lists or even change the care they offer to people at different levels of cover.
The proposed changes, beginning in April 2019, will see spinal, cataract, bariatric and some orthopaedic surgery as well as sleep studies insured at the highest priced levels, despite being covered in some lower cost policies now.
A new system, released for consultation by Health Minister Greg Hunt in July, classified insurance into four tiers - Basic, Bronze, Silver, and Gold - with much sharper clinical definitions of what is included at each level. Consultation on the changes closed on Friday.

Consumers deserve watertight protections for health insurance

By Editorial
4 August 2018 — 11:52pm
It is little wonder consumers are frustrated by private health insurance.
First, many feel pressured to sign up by an official carrot and stick. The government rewards those with health insurance with a tax rebate but penalises those who fail to sign up by their 31st birthday with a loading on any cover they purchase later in life.
Once consumers are cajoled into purchasing health insurance they typically face premium hikes well above the rate of inflation.
Health insurance premiums were lifted by an industry-weighted average of 3.95 per cent this year. While that was lower than many recent annual increases it is still roughly double the rate of inflation and double the economy-wide rate of wages growth. Premium increases for some individual funds were well above the industry average.

Aged care won't be getting cheaper

By Rachel Lane
2 August 2018 — 4:00pm
In our house we have a saying: “The dogs bark and the caravans roll on,” which basically means that something caught everyone’s attention but now the show is over and the public gaze has moved on. That is exactly what seems to have happened with the “Tune Report” on aged care.
This week marks a year since David Tune provided the Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017 Report — an independent review of the aged care system after implementation of the 2014 Living Longer Living Better Reforms. The report’s scope was broad, covering nine key areas. Some of the big ones were the effectiveness of means-testing arrangements; the alignment of charges across residential and home care services; the regulation of prices for aged care accommodation; and the protection measures for refundable deposits and accommodation bonds.
The review included workshops with key stakeholders: consumers and their advocates, as well as aged care staff and operators. Feedback was also provided to the review in the form of 145 written submissions from consumers, carers, providers and peak bodies. The report on the review was a comprehensive 197-page document that included 38 recommendations, most of which seem to have been filed in the “look at me after the election” pile.

International Issues.

Amid bodyguard crisis, Macron loses ground in new poll

By Sarah White
30 July 2018 — 10:39am
Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron's popularity has slid to a fresh low following a scandal surrounding his former senior bodyguard, according to a wide-ranging survey published on Sunday, countering a less damaging picture painted by other polls.
Macron, who came to power just over a year ago on an economic reform platform, has been mired in a furore involving his former senior bodyguard, who was caught on camera assaulting a May Day protestor while off duty and wearing police gear.

UK democracy 'facing a crisis' from US social media giants

By Giles Turner
29 July 2018 — 3:11pm
London: The United Kingdom's political system cannot cope with the threats from fake news, according to a panel of British MPs investigating the effect of social media on recent elections.
UK authorities have been looking for signs of Russian meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum after reports that Kremlin-backed groups used social media to influence elections and sow discord in the US and other countries.
Shares of Facebook tumbled 25 per cent as the fallout from a massive data breach led to a surprise warning and erased roughly $203 billion from the social network's market value.

Fears of 'no deal' prompt a surge in Brexit regret

By Nick Miller
31 July 2018 — 2:54am
London: A Brexit backlash is stirring just eight months before the UK is due to leave the European Union, as headlines warn of stalled negotiations, hospitals stockpiling medicines and supermarkets stockpiling food.
For the first time since the 2016 referendum, a major poll has shown the public breaking sharply against Brexit.
UK finance leaders give conflicting views on the Brexit outlook for the sector - with Barclays chairman John McFarlane predicting it will emerge largely unscathed from an EU/UK divorce, but others warning of job cuts.

North Korea is working on new missiles: US spy agencies

By Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick
31 July 2018 — 10:14am
Washington: US spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.
Newly obtained evidence, including satellite photos taken in recent weeks, indicates that work is underway on at least one and possibly two liquid-fuelled ICBMs at a large research facility in Sanumdong, on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe classified intelligence.
The findings are the latest to show ongoing activity inside North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities at a time when the country's leaders are engaged in arms talks with the United States. The new intelligence does not suggest an expansion of North Korea's capabilities but shows that work on advanced weapons is continuing weeks after President Trump declared in a Twitter posting that Pyongyang was "no longer a Nuclear Threat."
  • Jul 31 2018 at 1:34 PM

China's July manufacturing growth slows on US trade dispute, bad weather

by Elias Glenn and Lusha Zhang
Beijing |Growth in China's manufacturing sector slowed more than expected in July, as the worsening trade dispute with Washington and bad weather weighed on factory activity.
The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) released on Tuesday fell to 51.2 in July, from 51.5 in June and below the 51.3 in a Reuters poll of economists. It was also the lowest index reading since February but remained above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction for a 24th straight month.
Firms were hurt by trade frictions, rain and high temperatures in July, which is also a cyclically slow season for some sectors, said statistics bureau official Zhao Qinghe in a statement released with the data.

A question of control: China's Xi Jinping faces a rare rebuke at home

By Chris Buckley
1 August 2018 — 2:11pm
Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping seemed indomitable when lawmakers abolished a term limit on his power early this year. But months later, China has been struck by economic headwinds, a vaccine scandal and trade battles with Washington, emboldening critics in Beijing who are questioning Xi's sweeping control.
Censorship and punishment have muted dissent in China since Xi came to power. So Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, took a big risk last week when he delivered the fiercest denunciation yet from a Chinese academic of Xi's hardline policies, revival of communist orthodoxies and adulatory propaganda image.
"People nationwide, including the entire bureaucratic elite, feel once more lost in uncertainty about the direction of the country and about their own personal security, and the rising anxiety has spread into a degree of panic throughout society," Xu wrote in an essay that appeared on the website of Unirule Institute of Economics, an independent think-tank in Beijing that was recently forced out of its office.

Pope Francis shifts Catholic Church teaching on the death penalty

2 August 2018 — 9:39pm
Vatican City: Pope Francis has changed church teaching about the death penalty, saying in a new policy published Thursday that it is always "inadmissible" because it "attacks" the inherent dignity of all humans.
The Vatican said Francis had approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the compilation of official Catholic Church teaching. Previously, the catechism said the church didn't exclude recourse to capital punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."
The Roman Catholic Church has formally changed its doctrine to oppose capital punishment, reflecting an evolution in teachings that started with Pope John Paul II.

Russia is 'keyboard click' from major election hack: US intel head

3 August 2018 — 7:15am
Washington: Russian efforts to interfere in upcoming US midterm elections have yet to reach the intensity of the Kremlin's campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential vote, but they're only "a keyboard click away" from a more serious attack, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said.
"We have not seen that kind of robust campaign from them so far," Coats said in a briefing at the White House on Thursday.
Coats was among five top national security leaders -- including National Security Adviser John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency -- who blasted Russian efforts to interfere in US elections.
  • Updated Aug 4 2018 at 4:01 AM

China to target $US60 billion more US imports to counter Donald Trump

by Miao Han
Beijing | China announced a list of $US60 billion ($81 billion) worth of US imports it plans to apply tariffs on should the Trump administration follow through with its latest trade threats.
Duties ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent will be levied on 5207 kinds of American imports if the US delivers its proposed taxes on another $US200 billion of Chinese goods, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on its website late on Friday.
Beijing plans to impose an additional 5 per cent in tariffs on about 600 kinds of products including planes and computers, another 10 per cent on almost 1000 products including wigs and textiles, an extra 20 per cent on more than 1000 items including some chemicals, cookers and paper, and an additional 25 per cent on over 2400 products such as meat, wheat, wine and LNG, according to the statement.

China unveils retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion of US goods

3 August 2018 — 11:49pm
Beijing: China on Friday announced retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas to some aircraft and warned of further measures, signalling that it won't back down in a protracted trade war with Washington.
China's finance ministry unveiled new sets of additional tariffs on 5207 goods imported from the United States, ranging from 5 to 25 percent.
China has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on US$60 billion worth of goods from the United States, ranging from liquefied natural gas to aircraft.
I look forward to comments on all this!

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