The future of health:

Dr John James writes: Re. “Two health insider views from the 2020 Summit” (yesterday, item 13). A colleague of mine and good friend, an oncologist here in Sydney, recently resigned from his teaching hospital position after nearly 20 years. He was a dedicated doctor, willing to treat and give his time where it was needed. He was not driven by a desire for a dollar. He has gone overseas and is practicing in Dublin. He chronicled to me one day, over a cup of coffee, the difficulties with cost cutting, but what really pushed him out was when he indicated to the area health service administrators that because of cost cutting and shortage of secretarial staff he was having difficulties replying to the referring doctors promptly. As he put it, some of his patients were dying before the referring doctors were aware of their progress. He indicated that, out of courtesy, he should write a simple letter of explanation to the referring doctors explaining why he wasn’t replying more promptly. The area health service told him that if he did so he would be in breach of contract. They then broke into his personal hard drive and stripped it of sensitive information that the administrators were clearly anxious might become public information. Hospitals must be returned to local board administration made up of medical and nursing staff as well as local community representatives. They should be allowed to keep any money generated or saved and they must be run as business entities. They should be allowed to charge a fee for all services as they see fit and compete with other hospitals. Medicare assistance for hospital costs should be given directly to families and individuals, means tested, and money not used in one financial year could be “saved” by that family for future use. Hospital administrators and middle management should largely go. As my colleagues experience indicates they are completely out of touch. Finally, family medicine must be better funded. The system needs more well trained generalists to keep the chronically ill and the young out of hospital. 

Peter Costello’s memoirs:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Cossie speaks … and removes all doubt” (yesterday, item 8). You have to give Peter Costello ten points for convincing his Party and the electorate that he has a dream — to sleep-walk his way into centre-stage, somewhere, sometime, no matter what. Can you believe that after twelve years of missed on-calls and a life-time as Howard’s understudy he still harbours a conceited vision of wallowing in populace kudos? This now very ordinary opposition MP is trying to rewrite the lost years of missed opportunities in some sort of self-promotional exercise and sadly, is turning into an even bigger loser than he was as a thwarted leader in waiting. I suppose if he’s got nowhere to go and a sub-prime seat margin he might as well use his cliff-hanger electorate office in just-above-middle-class Malvern as a publishing house. It’s a good smother for the colleague and Party loyalty stuff and gives him time to see if Christmas sales on the book ring them political bells again. Who knows, he might even give Barbara Cartland a run for her money.

Beating unlawful bank fees:

Gerard Brody, director of policy and campaigns at the Consumer Action Law Centre, writes: Re. “How I beat the bank, with a little help from VCAT” (yesterday, item 4). Well done Adam Schwab for beating the banks on penalty fees! All consumers who have been hit by these unfair, unlawful fees can claim them back with the assistance of Consumer Action and CHOICE’s Fair Fees campaign. Consumers can download a template letter seeking a refund from There is also information about taking the matter further, such as Adam Schwab has done. The Senate’s Economics Committee is also undertaking an inquiry on a bill that will allow the financial services regulator, ASIC, to be able to determine certain penalty fees to be unfair and unlawful. While submissions have closed this week, people could still contact the Senators on the Committee to tell them it is time do something about unfair penalty fees.

The battle for McEwen:

Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. “Setting hearts racing in the battle for McEwen” (yesterday, item 9). My partner got a letter from the Electoral Commission, I think it was back in January, saying that her vote was invalid, because she didn’t have proof of her identity, this is completely untrue. She gave her preferences to Rob Mitchell and I therefore thought that the Labor Party would be very interested to do something about it. I emailed them a copy of the letter and I’m still waiting for a response. My partner never rang the Electoral Commission about it. I really believed that Labor would pounce on this and use it for their advantage; their lack of interest is a mystery to me.

The torch protest:

Bill Cushing writes: Re. “Torch protest: who’ll be there, from Amway up” (Tuesday, item 10). Did I read correctly that the National Anarchists were planning to appear at the Canberra Torch Relay?

The Republic debate:

Jonathan Schultz writes: Alf Bock (yesterday, comments) only scratches the surface of the own goals scored by monarchist Rob Williams (Tuesday, comments) with his confused association of forms of government, membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and national flags. For your information, of the 53 British Commonwealth members, only 5 (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tuvalu and the United Kingdom) have the Union Jack on their flag and 32 are republics. One (Mozambique) was not even a British colony. Undoubtedly the most interesting case is Fiji, which is a parliamentary republic with a President as Head of State, but keeps the Union Jack on its flag. Meanwhile the Queen has the title of Paramount Chief, is on the coins and bank notes, and has her birthday celebrated as a national holiday. Fiji remains a (suspended) member of the Commonwealth.

John Bowyer writes: Re. Adam Rope (yesterday, comments). A change to a Republic cannot come until it is voted on. After two days of the Kevin love-in you would think someone could actually come up with a proper change rather than a “bleat”! The only system change I have heard was from a former Victorian Governor. My suggestion would be that the Prime Minister selects a candidate who has to be approved by both houses of the parliament. This utter rubbish about “lets agree to a change” by politicians and then let them work it out is nothing less than completely contemptible. If you cannot suggest a model then keep out of the debate — as we have to have a vote on a change to the constitution — think about it!

David Horkan writes: As a constitutional monarchist I would be happy to maintain the status quo by voting in favour of an Australian citizen who lives in this country as our Head of State.


Dr Peter Phelps, unemployed former chief of staff to the Special Minister of State, writes: Marcus Westbury (yesterday, comments) contends that GetUp’s dodgy how-to-vote website was transparent. Yes — it was transparently biased towards Labor. Marcus says: “The problem with HSIV not recommending Liberal candidates is of the Liberals’ own making… the Liberal Party’s decision to not supply answers from their candidates had meant ‘that the Coalition is not an option on the how-to-vote cards the system generates’.” And this is what the generated HTV for Eden-Monaro, sent to me by GetUp, said for Gary Nairn: “when a candidate has not completed the survey, in this case candidates are also ordered randomly” — randomly always being LAST spot on the HTV, irrespective of the policy positions entered into the website by punters. Yet Labor’s Mike Kelly did NOT complete the survey either. So what did GetUp do? I quote again, this time in relation to Kelly: “Your local candidate has not yet completed the survey. This answer has been entered by based on Party policy” Hmmm… So where both the Labor and Liberal candidate’s haven’t replied, you hypothecate a position for Labor, but for the Liberal you automatically ALWAYS put them at the bottom of the ticket in full preferential system. Not even a little bit of bias there, Marcus? I reiterate — whatever answers a person gave, from whatever ideological perspective, the GetUp HTV ALWAYS placed Kelly ahead of Nairn. And in a full preferential system that means only one thing. But the key point is that it was deliberately set up that way, with the foreknowledge of GetUp – is that really unbiased assistance for new, uninformed voters? For Crikey’s edification, I offer up Exhibit “A” of GetUp’s biased HTV’s produced by this disgraceful, deceitful rort.

American Idol:

Emma Ashton writes: Re. “Is American Idol on the way out?” (Yesterday, item 19). It is too soon to speak of the demise of American Idol. Even though the ratings of this mega hit have fallen, the two episodes shown each week are still the most watched TV programs in the US. The third watched program of the week, Dancing With the Stars, has 6 million viewers less then Idol. As CBS boss Leslie Moonves said in your linked LA Times article “If someone would kill that show I’d really appreciate it.” Fox will continue to keep the Idol pulse beating for a while yet.

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