A little bit of poaching from the poor. If I have read the data on the World Health Organisation’s Global Atlas of the Health Workforce correctly then in 2004 India had 0.6 of a medical physician for every 1000 people. Figures released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia in 2006 had 2.9 “full-time equivalent (FTE) medical practitioners” for every 1000 people.

We might be complaining in this country about the shortage of doctors — and Australia is still below the OECD average for physicians — but by comparison with Indians we appear to be well serviced. That is a conclusion that sits awkwardly with the decision last month by the Australian Medical Council to give a United States company a contract to open five exam centres in India to streamline the recruitment of overseas-trained doctors. Why the federal government had gone back on its 2003 pledge not to actively recruit doctors in developing countries, a practice that has been condemned on the basis that it strips highly qualified professionals from the nations that can least afford to lose them, was not explained. “There has been a very careful review of the situation in India, and we have been given instruction that they are no longer part of these sensitive areas,” is all that AMC chief executive Ian Frank said on the subject.

So much for the supposed greater concern of a Labor Government to help the world’s poor and it is not just India that Australia relies on for its medicos as these OECD figures show.

A welcome story. Jewish Americans have traditionally been among the Democratic Party’s most reliable supporters. While the Republicans have been doing better for the last 20 years or so, if Jews ran the United States there would be one party government. In the last four presidential races George H.W. Bush received 11% of the Jewish Vote in 1992 . Bob Dole got 16% in 1996. George W. Bush, 19% in 2000, and then 24% in 2004. One of the worries in 2008 for the Democrats when they chose a candidate with Hussein as his second name was that this trend line of a growing Republican share might continue.

Which is why this feature in today’s Jerusalem Post will be welcomed by the Obama campaign. It describes how, when Rabbi Capers Funnye Jr. first met Barack Obama, he judged him to be a little shy. “To be fair,” the Jerusalem Post relates, “Obama wasn’t yet an international celebrity or even running for president. He was just Funnye’s cousin Michelle’s husband, being dragged to family events filled with her relatives, including Funnye, her grandfather’s nephew. Funnye describes Obama at those encounters as curious about his Judaism, since he knew many white Jews but wasn’t familiar with the African-American Jewish community.”

Aussie banks not the only robbers. Australian banks have come in for some ill-informed and unfair criticism — some of it I confess from me — for not passing on to their borrowers all the reductions in official interest rates. This little graph from the Wall Street Journal shows there is nothing unique about the local action. Borrowers around the world have similarly been denied all the benefit of rate reductions by central banks. The increased concern by lenders about getting a premium for risk has been greater than what the custodians of the official rates have given.

The pollster turns politician. Pollster Gary Morgan is putting his abilities to the test. The Morgan Poll man is standing for the job as Lord Mayor of Melbourne. At least he will not be able to do what so many politicians do when they get beaten and blame the information given to him by his pollster! At least this statement in announcing his candidature is true: “I understand the issues that are important to residents, ratepayers and the business community.” He has been researching such things for decades.

Journalists playing politics. Canberra’s journalists are bracing themselves for the big election of next week – the poll to see whether Glenn Milne runs as good a campaign as he writes. The News Ltd columnist is standing for the presidency of the National Press Club and it would add a bit of excitement to the weekly telecasts of Club lunches if he succeeded. Ken Randall, the incumbent and the little fellow’s opponent on Thursday, has rarely said a word in anger let alone staggered onto the stage throwing punches for the benefit of a national audience. Journalists these days, I expect, will prefer the more sober approach and will realize that Mr Milne’s blatant pro-Liberal partisanship would prove a serious impediment in attracting Labor Government ministers as speakers.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey