Balmain Hospital:

Mike Wallace, CEO, Sydney South West Area Health Service, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Monday, item 7). Your article contained a number of inaccuracies.

Balmain Hospital General Practice Casualty has changed its hours of operation because it has been unable to attract senior doctors to work overnight albeit to see only two to three patients, not because of budget cuts.

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of general practitioners throughout Australia and central Sydney is no exception.

The change of hours is about the sensible use of skilled staff and not about saving money. The budget for Balmain GPC will stay the same. Given that the vast majority of patients require care between 8am and 10pm, redistribution of experienced staff to busier periods is a sensible use of resources.

The hours of operation are now 8am to 10pm. Services will not cease at 7pm as suggested in your article.

Balmain Hospital will continue to have a doctor onsite to see inpatients at all times.

It has always been the case that people with more serious conditions are referred to nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital which has access 24/7 to a full range of X-rays, pathology and specialist services which Balmain GP service does not have.

The change of hours is supported by the Balmain General Practice Management Committee (which includes community members) and the Central Sydney General Practice Network.

The Area Health Service is committed to ensuring the Balmain General Practice Casualty continues to provide a high quality GP service to the local community.

Budget 09:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Keane’s budget overview” (Special Budget 09 edition, item 1). The Labor Party has just introduced some of the most illogical budget measures ever. Having argued for means testing it has then provided for a virtually means test free maternity payment, millionaire families can get it, it now tops up those with paid maternity leave (mainly in the public sector) with another $10,000 (approx), will treat stay at home mothers as second class, and some low income part time women will fall into the same category.

This is not a universal scheme; it is complex and is highly regressive. The private health insurance rebate means testing is a complicated way of increasing taxes, and stuffs up the health system as well. Why not just increase income taxes? One journalist said last year about Rudd “his actions are vintage Labor, with predictable socially divisive effects creating camps of haves and have-nots.”

They have got worse, yes there is a global recession, but they seem to be completely incompetent.

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Kohler: The 2009 budget mirage” (Special Budget 09 edition, item 3) I don’t pretend to be economically literate when it comes to big budget papers. If I take the time to pore over them I can usually make sense of them but, by and large, I am informed on the budget bottom line by media reporting.

Like most Australians, my information to date has come from watching Kochie. Ok, I watched The 7.30 Report last night too which I guess makes me an “elite”. Over the course of today I’ll scour various media sites on the net.

My initial reaction was I don’t mind a $53b deficit if it means we’re investing $22b in big capital projects. Nothing wrong with borrowing if it is investing in growth and staving off mass unemployment.

But just now I read Alan Kohler in Crikey’s Budget wrap-up and he soured my breakfast: Of this record $53b deficit just $1b is earmarked for ports, rail, road and broadband.

So if we’ve gone from a $20b surplus to a $53b deficit, and just $1b is spent on capital infrastructure, where’s the $72b gone?

Mark Fletcher writes: The much hyped investment allowance does not apply to software purchases. The government has missed an opportunity to encourage small businesses to invest in efficiency, especially Australian software based efficiency. Submissions made to the Government by many including this writer have fallen on deaf ears.

I guess software is harder to justify than a computer. Hang on; a computer without software is useless. Duh!

NRL s-x candal:

Rosemary Swift writes: Re. “Four Corners fails to tell the full NRL story” (yesterday, item 6). Was Michael Winkler writing a review of the Four Corners program or a story on behaviour issues in the NRL? While the program isn’t Walkley material, Winkler’s piece, like most of what I’ve read today, doesn’t consider the double standard for acceptable male and female behaviour, which is alive and well in footy circles if not the wider community as well.

One of the most telling moments in the program was the education session for young players. After viewing footage of two scenarios, the consensus was that the drunk girl (who had consensual s-x with one man but was then tricked into having s-x with his mate) was obviously “up for it”, while the drunk man, apparently the unwitting participant in homos-xual s-x, was a victim and deserving of sympathy. I fear there is still a long way to go when a man volunteers “get a good lawyer” as the answer to “what would you do?” if he was in the first scenario.

Winkler’s comments on Charmyne Palavi are rather depressing, suggesting that she and her ilk are in some way responsible for the way women are treated. He completely misses the point. The inclusion of Palavi surely wasn’t to “provide balance and show the temptations thrown at NRL players”, but rather to demonstrate that there are indeed some women who are prepared to have group s-x with footballers.

Whether one approves or not is beside the point: they’re doing what they want. However, that doesn’t mean that all women want to, which is the issue here and what these young men seem completely incapable of understanding. Palavi’s distaste for the story of a woman being forced to give oral s-x to seven men is anything but what he describes as a “double standard” – the whole issue is about consent. She and her friends do, anyone who has to be “forced” obviously hasn’t. Can’t see any double standards there, Michael — it’s pretty clear cut to me.

And as for his comments on applying fake tan to her legs contributing to a lack of credibility — well, that makes me so angry I don’t know where to start. I thought the days of judging whether women were fair game by what they were wearing were long gone.

Seems not. How sad.

Gunns and Tasmania:

Gunns Limited Sustainability Manager Calton Frame writes: It’s getting a bit tedious hearing the same old deforestation furphy about Gunns’ proposed pulp mill from people like (the undeclared) Greens candidate Paul O’Halloran (yesterday, comments).

Let’s get one thing clear. The proposed mill is designed as a plantation-based mill. It’s a lot more efficient (not to mention profitable) to use plantation timber for pulp. Gunns have said (ad nauseum) that the mill will not use old growth forest (which includes “high conservation value forests”).

It’s going to begin operation with about 60 per cent plantation and the rest regrowth timber, rising to 100 per cent plantation within five years of operation.

As far as timber use goes, the mill will simply process in Tasmania woodchips that are currently shipped offshore (creating a not insignificant 1600 new jobs). So forestry rates won’t increase because of the mill. There is a legitimate debate to be had over the sustainable use of old growth forest. But it’s got nothing to do with the pulp mill.

The wrong host:

2GB producer Phil Sylvester writes: Re. “Radio market is a three horse race” (yesterday, item 23). In Glenn Dyer’s story you’ve got the wrong person filling-in for Alan Jones over the past five weeks. Dyer wrote:

The biggest winner from the latest figures is 2GB morning’s host, Ray Hadley, who lifted his share to a very high 19.1%, up 1.6 on the last survey. That put him out in front of 2GB mornings (where Jason Morrison was filling in for Alan Jones who returned from sick leave last week). Morrison averaged 17.7%, up 0.4 on the last survey.

Chris Smith was actually doing the fill-in job for Alan Jones… I’d know because I’m his executive producer on the afternoon show.

Help me out here guys, my next job in media depends on the track record of my host! Jason continued to do his Drive shift. Andrew Moore (Sportzone presenter) filled-in for Chris on the Afternoon Show.

No big deal … but we all love accuracy, right?

Spun chocolate:

Warwick Sauer writes: For anyone who missed the flowery ramblings of Cadbury’s spin doctor Daniel Ellis in Crikey (yesterday, comments), permit me to paraphrase:

  1. Yes, we have reduced our (formerly 250 gram) block sizes by 20%.
  2. And you’re right; we haven’t reduced our wholesale prices.
  3. But it’s the retailers who you’re buying from so it’s THEIR fault if they’re still charging the same price.
  4. And we’re only doing this because we want to ensure “our moulded range remains good value” (look into my eyes … look into my eyes … repeat after me, “20% less for the same price means better value”…)
  5. Oh and and and AND you probably lost half a gram of the 250gm blocks in “chocolate fragments” so the 20% size reduction is actually more like 19.8%, so there, nah nah nah nah nah nah.
  6. Plus, we win doublesies ‘cos we’re only doing this for the environmentses and “mouth-feel” to enhance the “chocolate delivery” of the 80.2% you’re now receiving.

Mike Dwyer writes: Cadbury’s spokesman has not revealed whether the wholesale price for its chocolate blocks has been reduced proportionately — by 20% for the reduction to 200g and by 12% for the reduction to 220g. It may well be that Cadbury’s have done just that.

There have been plenty of cases where reduction in size or dilution of content has been done by other manufacturers. The most recent was the reduction size of Cascade Premium Lager from 375ml to 330ml, with no alteration to price. The feeble excuse given was that 330ml was a standard measure. This may be so in Europe, but in Australia the standard was 375ml — a soft conversion from one twelfth of an imperial gallon. Fortunately customer boycotts meant that CUB had to restore the full 375ml bottle.

The liquor business is full of sneaky price increases by dilution or reduction. The standard sprit bottle was the same size as the world wide standard wine bottle (750ml), but has been reduced to 700ml. The breweries have diluted full strength beer from 4.9% alcohol to 4.6% (Carlton Draught), and introduced stubbies holding 355ml (12 US ounces), 345 ml and 330ml.

A foxy mistake:

David Long writes: Re. “Media briefs: Evening Standard relaunch… American journo freed from Iranian prison…” (Yesterday, item 25). Both Crikey and News cite Greta Van Susteren as a “CNN correspondent,” the only one at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Think you’ll find that when she’s not practising Scientology, Greta VS is a polemicist at Fox.

Crikey can be excused for not picking that up, but less so The OZ, given that “Our Rupert” owns both Fox and The Oz … oh dear, another errant sub sent to Murdoch’s Coventry.

Peter Fray

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