A classic example of the blame game. The buck passing on public hospital funding is well and truly back. The Tasmanian government this week announced it would cut more than $60 million from its elective surgery budget over the next three years. That means, according to federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, that the state risks missing out on Commonwealth funding for not meeting national elective surgery benchmarks. In other words, a bad situation in a state with severe financial problems looks like leading to ever lengthening queues for elective surgery as patients suffer while state and federal governments squabble.

So much for the much touted ending of the blame game over public hospitals that Kevin Rudd promised would result in a federal takeover if the states did not do the right thing. Roxon has ruled out that possibility. So where does that leave these words from the 2010 policy speech of Rudd’s successor as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard?

That’s why we will continue to invest in and reform health.  We will train 1300 new GPs to overcome the legacy of Mr Abbott’s cuts.  We will train 3000 more new nurses.  We will train the health professionals we need for the future.  We have increased the amount of money invested in health by 50 per cent and now we will reform for the future.  More local control, more of a local say for doctors, nurses and the local community.  The federal government stepping up to what it should do: taking the dominant share of funding for our health system.  Making sure that we’re reducing waiting times in emergency departments from eight hours to four hours. Making sure that we are getting elective surgery performed on time in 95 per cent of cases.  These are profound health reforms that we want to deliver for the future. Australians need them. They need them now. And we need them to have a health care system that can meet our needs as we age, as there are more older Australians seeking care in five, 10, 15 years’ time.

To my mind it’s a straight out broken promise.

A wonderful juxtaposition. As the adage puts it: once you get out of the lion’s cage you don’t go back in for your hat. It is something that rugby league player Ryan Tandy should consider before he lodges the appeal his solicitor promised after he was found guilty yesterday of match fixing, fined $4000 and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond. It seems a pretty light penalty to me for what magistrate Janet Wahlquist described as a  crime involving “significant organisation and … a significant level of criminality” with the participants in the sting standing to earn a substantial amount of money. Judges can increase a penalty as well as reduce it or quash it altogether.

Still,  I have only read reports of the case and not the whole proceedings. But what I do know is that his conviction gave rise to another of those wonderful juxtapositions of story and advertisement on the web.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a football player with a Scottish Premier League club has been arrested along with eight other men in a probe into betting irregularities.

The BBC reports that Steve Jennings of Motherwell FC was arrested at his home in Glasgow. Eight others were arrested across Merseyside.

Nine men, including Wayne Rooney’s father, who were arrested in a probe into betting irregularities have been released on bail.

Wayne Rooney snr and seven other men had been held at addresses in Merseyside. Motherwell FC player Steve Jennings had been arrested at his home in Glasgow.

Police said the men had been arrested for conspiracy to defraud.

The probe relates to alleged betting irregularities surrounding a game between Motherwell and Hearts.

Concerns about the game, on 14 December 2010, were raised by the Association of British Bookmakers after a number of bets from the Liverpool area were placed on there being a sending off.

During the match Jennings, who had already been booked, was shown a straight red card for foul and abusive language aimed at referee Stevie O’Reilly late in the 2-1 home defeat.

A kind or unkind cut? An editorial published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week has come out strongly in favour of male circumcision. The editorial was prompted by two new states in the US recently joining 16 others in eliminating Medicaid insurance for male circumcision and possible ballot initiatives to ban male circumcision.

Johns Hopkins health epidemiologist and pathologist Aaron Tobian, MD, PhD, and health epidemiologist Ronald Gray, MD, highlight the most recent medical research showing the considerable life-long health benefits of circumcision performed during infancy and the potential disadvantages associated with waiting until adulthood before undergoing the procedure.

“Our goal is to encourage all parents to make fully informed decisions on whether to circumcise their infant boys based on medical evidence and not conjecture or misinformation put out by anti-circumcision advocates,” says Tobian, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Among the research cited by Tobian and Gray, a professor at the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, are multiple studies conducted within the past five years showing that in heteros-xuals, circumcision reduced HIV infection risk by 60%, genital herpes by 30% and cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) by 35% in men. Females benefit from a 40% or greater reduced risk of bacterial vaginosis or parasitic trichomonas spread during s-x, as well as HPV infection, which causes cervical cancer.

In addition, the experts say the data clearly show that having the procedure in infancy reduces the risk of urinary tract infections, as well as inflammation in the opening or head region of the p-nis. Risk of infection from surgically removing the for-skin, considered a minimal and simple surgery, is already low overall but even lower during infancy, at between 0.2% and 0.6%. In adults, infection and complication rates are higher, between 1.5% and 3.8%.

In contrast to what circumcision’s opponents claim, Tobian and Gray say that research shows no reduction in s-xual satisfaction or male performance. Indeed, they add, circumcised men in the trials, the gold standard of medical evidence, reported no difference or even increased penile sensitivity during inte-course and enhanced org-sms compared to uncircumcised men. The majority of female partners also reported either no change or increased s-xual satisfaction, largely because of improved hygiene.

The Johns Hopkins experts argue that delaying circumcision until adulthood, when young men can legally decide for themselves, not only carries added risk of infection, but also challenges the long-held rights and responsibilities of many parents to make decisions about the long-term health of their children, including vaccinating them against hepatitis B, measles, polio, whooping cough and influenza. The proposed ban or delays also counter the religious rights for parents who observe Jewish and Muslim faiths, in which infant male circumcision is a prescribed religious obligation.

Not all bad for left of centre parties. Julia Gillard was trying to console herself the other day when greeted by yet another dismal opinion poll with a belief that left of centre parties were doing it tough everywhere. It seemed a bit like someone clutching at a straw given that in Denmark last month the incumbent centre-right coalition led by the Liberal Party lost power to a centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats. At best you could say that the outlook for the left is mixed.

In Spain the socialist led governing coalition looks like losing office in next month’s election — The Crikey Election Indicator gives them but a 4% chance of hanging on — but in France the Parti Socaliste is the early favourite to oust Nicolas Sarkozy from the presidency.

This Sunday the French will vote in a primary — which is open to all voters — to determine the Socialist presidential challenger. The opinion polls are pointing to life-long Socialist Francois Hollande, 57,  defeating Martine Aubry, 61, and Ségolène Royal, 58, as well as three other male candidates.

The BBC reports that Sarkozy’s current popularity ratings are so low that the right is panic-stricken. And its loss of control of the Senate in elections last week — a body that the conservatives in France have controlled since the Fifth Republic came into being in 1958 — was “more than a defeat — a trauma,” Hollande concluded. The Senate, France’s second parliamentary chamber, is more representative of the small towns and provincial cities in rural France. As a rule, it has been a bastion of conservatism, a place where a more nostalgic version of France, with all of its clichés, lives on. The Senate vote showed that, if traditionally conservative rural areas are abandoning Sarkozy, he could be in deep trouble.

Tackling a big issue or seeking revenge? My guess is that the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust, in the overall scheme of Australian things, is about as important a body as your average school P&C. Its affairs, even if involving some doubts about spending of trust funds, are hardly the stuff of front-page coverage in a national daily newspaper such as The Australian, yet for two days in a row now that’s where it has been.

It’s almost a blatant enough attempt at the Murdoch empire trying to get square to turn me into a Geoff Clark sympathiser.

Peter Fray

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