Co-payments more trouble than they’re worth

Terry Mills writes: Re. “Support growing for GP co-payments? Not so fast” (yesterday). GP co-payments could not proceed under an Abbott government because it would be introducing red tape for doctors having to collect six dollars from bulk billing patients. At the moment all GP transactions are electronic as are Medicare refunds, a six dollar co-payment would, of necessity, be cash and would involve doctors in significant red tape to collect and report on these payments. It would contradict everything Mr Abbott has been saying about government regulation and red tape.

On the Racial Discrimination Act

William Fettes writes: Re. “Racial vilification: why defenders of section 18C fail” (yesterday). Bernard Keane’s piece on the Racial Discrimination Act was surprisingly weak. Tim Soutphommasane’s remarks on the RDA are hardly a straw man when Nick Cater’s airy invocation of free speech “truthiness” offers the perfect validation for them. Indeed, Cater’s schtick is entirely too typical. Keane’s idiosyncratic views may or may not place him in a different category, but given that his views are representative of mainstream coverage, it’s fair to say the rebuke in Tim’s remarks has been well-earned. The RDA has been comprehensively mischaracterised in most regular reporting and editorial criticism. It is never explained that an objective test is applied by the courts in considering whether s18C is triggered at all, or that s18C is qualified by s18D such that every conceivable protection for good faith, public interest expression is available. Tim has virtually been a lone voice in the media pointing this out. Such studious inaccuracy is hard to explain given the law is neither new nor obscure.

Indeed, it’s obvious to anyone who actually bothers to read Eatok v Bolt. Instead of reporting how the law actually operates, we are told an alarmist falsehood that hurt feelings and subjective feelings are an actionable matter under the Act either through ignorance or repetition of the allegation as if the statute and case law weren’t readily available to be checked. Indeed, Keane’s own tirade against subjectivism starts to look pretty think when you consider the full sequence of how the Act operates, and not just first limb of the test in isolation from its judicial application and the second limb of exceptions found in s18D. It is also worth pointing out that any concerns raised against the Act ought to be proportionate to the remedies available, otherwise it’s so much hot air.

The odds are stacked in Santos’ favour

John Richardson writes: Re. “Santos’ open flame: can it snuff out the protests on coal seam gas?” (yesterday). Paddy Manning is right to examine coal seam gas proponents for their “loose claims” regarding environmental contamination. Of course, Santos is in good company in pursuing its coal seam gas ambitions, with the likes of former Howard government minister & expert in mobile phone management, Peter Reith, being just one of the paid monkeys performing for the industry organ-grinder. The CSG industry’s latest attempt to scare the natives has involved promoting panic at supposed gas shortages & sky-rocketing prices if open-slather development is not approved.

This reckless & dishonest agenda enjoys the benign support of government both state & federal, whilst the likes of the paid help like Reith continue to claim that  ‘you would be hard pressed to find any independently confirmed cases of water contamination as a result of drilling by the gas industry after more than 2 million fracking operations in the US. For anyone interested in understanding the threat that unfettered coal seam gas development represents, perhaps they might care to take a look at this independent study suggesting that, from studies undertaken in Colorado, that “natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in surface & ground water”. A pox on all their houses.

Peter Fray

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