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Crikey says: health crisis on our doorstep puts aid priorities in stark relief

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In a growing health crisis in East Timor, right on Australia’s doorstep, rates of preventable diseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis and severe malnutrition are rising, according to a Foreign Correspondent report last night.

Timor-based doctor Dan Murphy told the ABC’s Sophie McNeill:

“There is really no access to anything near adequate healthcare. In every category in health, their numbers are worse than most of south-east Asia. We don’t have very many meds. We don’t have very many diagnostic tools so mostly we’re going by smoke and mirrors. You can’t do as well as you could if you had all the right tests.”

East Timor has some of the worst malnutrition rates outside of Africa, yet Australia cut its aid budget to the burgeoning nation by $15 million this financial year — and World Vision Australia says a new child health and nutrition project has been shelved as a result.

Meanwhile, a controversial deal under which Cambodia would take 1000 refugees currently being held by Australia in the camp on Nauru is set to be signed. The reported price tag for Australia? A cool $40 million.

Labor called it a “slush fund” to buy off Cambodian co-operation — but it’s much more than that. It also comes at a high price for one of our nearest neighbours. What a tragedy that after 24 years of brutal occupation — an occupation that Australia belatedly helped to end — the East Timorese are dying of diseases that were long consigned to history in a country just 600 kilometres from its shores.

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  • 1
    Alex
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Very sad and very disappointing, Australia!

  • 2
    paddy
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    What a deeply shameful state of affairs.
    I’m old enough to have been a political junkie since the sixties. I’ve *never* seen a worse Government than this mob led by Abbott and his backers.
    I *really* hope they’re a one-term horror.

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Makes you wonder, what would have happened if East Timor hadn’t complained about “Howard’s Buggery” (to help Woodside’s bottom line)?

  • 4
    CML
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s the children, stupid! Whether they are dying of preventable diseases in East Timor, being blown to bits in Gaza and Syria, starving on mountain tops in Iraq or any of the other horrors visited on children around the world, they don’t deserve any of it.
    Where are the so-called ‘adults’ of this world? Certainly not in our despicable federal government, it would seem.
    NOT IN MY NAME, Tony Abbott!!

  • 5
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why you put a payment to Cambodia alongside a reduction in aid for East Timor. How are they remotely related? The obvious connection in Cambodia is to the savings being made by stopping the boats. Border protection costs billions of dollars and the Cambodia payment would be part of that.

    You could put any two government measures together to compare them.

    How about this?

    East Timor has some of the worst malnutrition rates outside of Africa, yet Australia cut its aid budget to the burgeoning nation by $15 million this financial year!!

    Meanwhile, a controversial deal in the senate has stopped the $7 co-payment for Aussies to visit their GP!! So greedy Aussies are putting their flu treatments ahead of starving and diseased Timorese!!!

    Huff! Puff! Huff! Puff! It’s all Tony Abbott’s fault! I’m ashamed to be Australian!!”

    That works, doesn’t it?

  • 6
    CML
    Posted Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    No David, that doesn’t work at all. A proportion of that $40 million going to Cambodia is ‘foreign aid’. Cutting aid to East Timor is reducing foreign aid. It all comes out of the same stash.
    Why doesn’t your example work? Because the $7 co-payment is NOT going towards paying for ‘flu treatments’, or any other patient treatment, for that matter. This money is going into some stupid research fund, which may, or may not ever be used for that purpose.
    No one seems to have worked out that the way we partially fund health care in this country is with the Medicare levy. Therefore, if the current levy is insufficient to fund that part of the healthcare costs required, then any sensible government would raise the levy to cover said increased costs.
    If the people were adequately informed about the rising costs, then IMHO they would accept a rise in the levy, rather than the proposed co-payment.
    Makes sense to me!

  • 7
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    After it’s had a “holiday” in consolidated revenue?

  • 8
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    OneHand - have you truly no shame? Is there NO reprehensible, immoral indecency from the tories that you would not attempt to defend by obfuscation?
    Didn’t think so.

  • 9
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    The point I’m making is that this editorial is pure unadulterated anti government spin. Nothing more.

    I’m not defending the reduction in foreign aid to East Timor. And I’m not suggesting the GP co-payment should be used for it either.

    I’m talking about spin and I’m talking about the crusading anti Abbott government campaign being run through Crikey.

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