Aged care:

Melissa Madsen writes: Re. “Aged care: treating the cause and consequences of bad price signals” (yesterday, item 1). There might not be a magic pudding for aged care funding, but the Commonwealth government could make the pudding go a lot further by addressing significant inefficiencies in the aged care and disability sectors.

I am an adult wheelchair user who receives state government-funded support services and equipment. My father spent several months in 2010 and 2011 trying to negotiate high-level in-home aged care support for my mother.

You cannot escape the conclusion that decades of under-investment and perverse incentives have left the aged care and disability sectors fundamentally broken. Both appear to operate with administrative systems that are barely functional at best, non-existent IT systems, with a very high reliance on manual processing, high overheads and limited accountability for where the money goes as a result.

For example, the state government does not know how many wheelchairs I have (despite their rules that I can keep only one) and sends me surveys periodically so I can tell them. Standard cushions designed to prevent pressure sores can be bought online and delivered from the US at roughly half what it costs to buy locally, yet government agencies buy locally. What price signal does this send to local suppliers?

The scarcity of resources and the inability of consumers to choose service providers mean that any service at any cost has been good enough. But with increased funding there must also be greater accountability for how our aged care and disability funds are spent.


Chris O’ Regan writes: Re. “French poll: ‘we’ll still have baguettes and a grape harvest’” (yesterday, item 13). I’m not sure how Alan Austin thinks introducing Australian-style instant runoff voting (IVR) will “fix things” in France.

It wouldn’t have materially affected the likely result for one thing, so it’s not clear what problem he thinks the system has. In fact, having multiple ballots is arguably more democratic than having an instant runoff; it forces voters to spend more time thinking about their preference allocation and allows them to respond to unanticipated choices.

It’s hard to believe that the anomalous situations occasionally found in Australia — like Liberal Party preferences electing Greens or Labor Senate votes going to a Family First candidate — would happen under the French system.

All voting systems have their quirks, and to assume that Australian IRV is innately superior to the French way of doing things is lazy chauvinism.

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