Bulk-billing review

Katy Gallagher (''Calls on emergency units need careful analysis'', Forum, June 27, p5) refers to increased demand, including a 104 per cent increase in non-urgent attendances at Canberra Hospital for emergency department services. She mentions the need for an analysis of the reasons.

Here is one analysis. As at May 2013, 82.4 per cent of Australian GPs bulk-billed at the schedule fee ($36 per hour for a standard consultation). The opposition attacked the budget's proposed $7 patient co-payment for a GP consultation for destroying the universality Medicare. It claims the $7 payment will deter people from seeing their GP. In my experience, it is the norm for Canberra GPs to charge about $40 above the $36 schedule fee. If the opposition is correct abut the effect of a $7 patient contribution for the 82.4 per cent of bulk-billed patients, how much greater is the impact of a $40 patient contribution? Why else would patients with non-urgent conditions spend hours in hospital waiting areas to receive treatment from a junior medical officer who cannot take a comprehensive and long-term view of their health needs?

Ms Gallagher's government should investigate bulk-billing availability in the ACT and publicise the outcome. If the investigation shows a marked divergence from the national situation, the government should analyse the reason and take innovative action to reduce the divergence. The distortion of universal Medicare coverage is a hollow and bitter pill for Canberra residents paying $40 or more to visit their GP.

Bob Tuner, Canberra City

Get used to it

Liberal MLA Giulia Jones, who told us a comedy concert sketch ridiculing Hitler was anti-Semitic, has again dived into her grab-a-cliche-for-all-arguments bag and plucked out a word - sexist - to describe as belittling, demeaning and offensive answers and behaviour towards her, and apparently largely consisting of eye rolling, sarcasm and laughter, by messrs Rattenbury, Barr and Corbell during budget estimates hearings ('''Mocked' Jones accuses ministers of sexism'', June 28, p1).


She also asserts that ''modern women … need to be treated with an equal level of dignity and respect''. With men, presumably.

Well, if she wants equality of dignity and respect, eye rolling, sarcasm and scornful laughter seem to be stock-in-trade levels of dignity and respect exhibited in our media by most politicians of both sexes to their parliamentary opponents, so it's a peculiar assertion, to say the least.

Ms Jones' whiny self-pity might benefit from a reading of Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher, a lesson in resilience for all female politicians who feel the urge to play the sexism or misogyny card.

Bill Deane, Chapman

Name withheld

It seems fairly obvious that the problem identified in the article ''Man sues police over false sex assault claim'', June 30, p1) stems from the convention of the accused being named while the so-called victim is never named. What has happened to the legal right of being innocent until proven guilty? The humiliation and anguish that the falsely accused must suffer is an outrage and grossly unfair. How do you rebuild your life with that question mark hanging over your reputation? ''Victims'' might think twice about making a false accusation if either both names or no names are released until after the trial.

Susan Cowan, Yarralumla

No pictures, please

Sunday. I am just back from my customary walk from Campbell that takes me under the underpass near Blundell's cottage, along the lake and back through the grounds of St Johns. I took my camera as I wanted some photos to try out a new app. I took a couple of shots along Anzac Parade. Then, from the car park of Anzac East, I went to take a photo of that building that is still unoccupied and which is surrounded by a security fence.

A guard appeared from nowhere and yelled that photos were not allowed. Undoubtedly there is some legislation somewhere that would back him up, so I complied. Presumably it is all part of the better security that particular organisation is going to deliver to us all.

Tom Hayes, Campbell

Carney badly treated

I think Todd Carney has been harshly treated and unfairly punished by his sudden sacking from a $650,000 per year contract with the Cronulla Football Club because someone posted a photo of Todd drinking his own urine in a toilet. Todd obviously didn't take the photo because his hands were otherwise occupied.

What proof was there that Todd was responsible for posting the photo on social media? Most people would think that what Todd did was disgusting, but it was not against the law and it did not hurt anybody else. Drinking urine has been common practice in Egyptian, Indian and Chinese cultures. Some yoga practitioners and herbal medicine advisers advocate the health benefits of drinking urine.

Various football clubs and peak sporting bodies have not taken punitive action when their players have been accused of serious offences such as physical and sexual assault. Churches and other prominent groups in society have turned a blind eye to, and covered up, serious sexual offences against children and others for many years.

It's time the managers and administrators football clubs and other sporting bodies gave up the farcical pretence that sportsmen and women are supposed to be role models for general behaviour by the rest of our society. They are not role models - they are often young people who engage in what the rest of us may regard as inappropriate behaviour.

If they break the law then the alleged offenders should be brought before the courts and subject to the same legal processes and penalties as the rest of our society. They do not deserve additional, often excessive punishment, by their club or sporting code.

Les Hegedus, Wanniassa

Why don't the Raiders consider a reconciliation program with Mr Carney? Yes, his history is far from pleasant, but there is little doubt that he is a very capable footballer. Ricky Stuart could probably find a spot for Carney's talents and, being under the discipline of Ricky, Carney would be a complete oaf to overstep the mark again. A contract on a game-by-game basis for a year to test the waters on both sides and then perhaps a firm contract later in the piece. Just a thought, and why not? It seems a shame that such talent should be totally scrapped. If the Raiders don't, then odds are some other club will.

N. Bailey, Nicholls

AusPost falls foul of the right-wing fringe

The Institute of Public Affairs is a hardline right-wing lobby group. Until the accession of the Abbott government, the influence of the IPA was confined to the lunatic fringe, just as some extreme left-wing organisations appealed to the opposite fringe.

The lunatics are now running the asylum, and the fringe dwellers have come into their own. However, it seems unnecessary for you to give regular space to the IPA's Julie Novak. Her most recent column (''Sale of Australia Post should be on the reform agenda'', Forum, June 28, p9) is a case in point.

Dr Novak's argument for the sale of Australia Post is purely ideological, disguised as objective advice. ''Good steps forward for a reforming government'', she says, and it would ''allow consumers to enjoy cheaper and better quality services''.

As she must be aware, a recent survey showed that some 60 per cent of Australians, not being mugs, oppose privatisation. They are aware that the benefits of privatisation flow not to the consumer but to the corporate vultures who are even now waiting in the wings.

Nick Goldie, Michelago, NSW

Having received an email from Australia Post this morning telling me that a letter awaited my viewing in my digital mailbox, I set about retrieving it. The contents were quite useless, and the date of the letter was 10 days ago! I think I'm going to be far better off with postman mail delivery three days a week.

David Elliston, Holt

Masters of deceit

If Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were influenced by Father Maciel's teaching that it is acceptable to tell lies, it would explain (but not excuse) their blatant pre-election acts of deceit.

Ted Tregillgas, Flynn

Palmer a clear winner when it comes to setting the agenda

Clive Palmer is setting the government's agenda. Setting the agenda is the most important single power exercised by a politician. The person who controls the daily agenda really does set the agenda for 80 per cent of what the Prime Minister and the government decides to think about.

Jacqueline Maley (''Palmer leans in: Abbott hears and backs away'', Forum, June 28, p2) is right that Palmer's joint announcement with former US vice-president Al Gore on June 25 about climate change has put the opposition in the shade.

The power of setting the agenda is rarely discussed. The simplest question, namely, who gets in to see the Prime Minister is never mentioned. Because we do not hear discussions on this we do not have any real conception of how policy is made in the Prime Minister's office. Nor is there any discussion of where real power resides in Australia.

It is too early to say whether Palmer will take over Australian politics. What Palmer wants is clear: state-cartelised capitalism shored up by Keynesian policies, subsidies and cheap money and an expanded welfare state. This world view is shared by the US corporate establishment - of which Gore is a member. The greatest takeover in history of politics occurred in 1973 when David Rockefeller established the Trilateral Commission. In 1977 the commission had 117 members, 26 of whom were in president Jimmy Carter's cabinet. It has been pretty much smooth sailing for the American corporate state since then.

Victor Diskordia, McKellar

Win-win for jobs

The current move by Coalition MPs to support the aluminium industry rather than the RET (renewable energy target) is only half wrong and dated. We need more of both, as both can produce useful jobs and exports, whereas maintaining both at current levels merely supports old industries, and ensures inefficiency and more carbon pollution.

If the renewable energy sector was stimulated more jobs would be produced. Aluminium is probably the most efficient way to export excess electrons. Building, say, a ''hot rocks'' power station in South Australia with power lines to expanded aluminium smelters would generate innovation, jobs and exports.

Adrian Gibbs, Yarralumla

Broadcasting threat

It is clear that, despite Tony Abbott's repeated (but obviously non-core) promise not to cut funding to the ABC and SBS, the federal government intends to eviscerate both.

Malcolm Turnbull has promised ''deeper cuts'' on top of those already made, using the preordained results of a review headed by a former senior executive from commercial enemy territory (''Turnbull study offers an ABC of how to outsource'', Forum, June 28, p4). A good example of the maxim ''Never have a review unless you know the outcome''.

Full implementation of the review's recommendations could well mean the ABC having to pay dearly to use studios that it presently owns, and the slow, agonising death of SBS. Is this really what Australians want?

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Barbara Godfrey (Letters, June 30) complains bitterly over Tony Abbott's cuts to the budgets of the ABC and SBS despite his earlier denial these cuts would occur. Have we forgotten it was Mr Abbott who said ''statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks''? Further, he did tell the ABC voters should not believe every pledge he makes ''unless it is written down as the gospel truth''. So how can we complain now? We were told by the man himself.

C.J.Johnston, Duffy

Honour killings

As a researcher, I spent some time in Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan where I met local women and men who work to eliminate honour killings and learnt much from them about the complexities of the issue. In particular, justifications for honour killing - traditionally as a sentence pronounced by local leaders to punish adulterous men and women - have been extended to include instances when a woman or young girl tried to exercise autonomy, such as a desire for further education, refusal to enter into an arranged marriage, or being outside home without permission.

For example, there was a case where a 12-year-old in the Punjab province attended a relative's wedding without her father's permission. The father regarded her action as compromising the family's honour, and beat her to death, in the presence of his wife and their children. The woman reported the murder to the local police, who arrested her husband, but his absence meant the end of the family income. Unable to find alternative means to support the family and confronted by an unsupportive community who opposed her decision to seek justice, the woman was forced to withdraw the case and the man returned home.

Presenting honour killing as a discussion topic at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas would not have been the best nor most strategic way to change the minds of those who endorse the practice. Honour killing is a human rights and violence-against-women issue. It is also caught up with groups ranging from knee-jerk condemnations from the West to defenders of misogyny who disguise their rhetoric in ''culture'' and ''tradition''. Somewhere amid the shouting match of ideas, the voices of those who have suffered as a result of honour killings would be lost.

Joyce Wu, Lyneham

Youthful fervour

For all the fuss about young Australians going off to fight in the Middle East, it's hardly surprising. For males in their mid-teens to mid-20s, emotionally immature and testosterone-fuelled who believe themselves to be immune to harm, given a choice between fighting for their faith or turning the other cheek, what else would they do? Of course, those of a religious persuasion who encourage them should be condemned, but it's hardly unknown for religions other than Islam (and governments) to take advantage of youthful fervour.

Roger Dace, Reid



When are people's names going to be suppressed until conviction (''Man sues police over false sex assault claim,'' June 30, p1) and (''Teacher cleared of sex charges'', June 26, p3)? Reputations trashed, careers ruined and no action taken against the always anonymous accusers.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


Wars in the Middle East are being used as a convenient excuse to give Australia's spy agencies greater powers for domestic surveillance. And with the ''National Security Legislation Monitor'' soon to be abolished, there will be even less oversight. In other countries, whenever domestic spies have too many powers and not enough accountability, it has led to the suppression of dissent.

Bill O'Connor, Beechworth, Vic


Colliss Parrett (Letters, June 27) noted the immature commentary on ''confidential'' discussions at staff meetings at the Australian embassy in Cairo. I doubt Egypt education is needed and suggest greater appreciation of obligations under the Official Secrets Act may be of higher priority.

John Lawrence, Belconnen


Please can I buy David Pope's ''Emission Accomplished'' original (Forum, June 28, p9)?

Pope is a great cartoonist at any time, but his depictions of Abbott and his sociopathic policies and government are genius. Not even your average genius, I'm suggesting right up there in the Michelangelo class.

Julian Robinson, Narrabundah


I guess Todd Carney has paid the price for the time-honoured Australian tradition of ''taking the piss''.

Ann Darbyshire, Gunning, NSW

What's new? Todd Carney's been on the piss for years.

Ed Highley, Kambah

Judging by the timeline published in The Canberra Times (''The strife and times of Todd Carney'', Sport, June 30, p20-21) Todd Carney must have lived a quiet life in 2005, as it is the only year that did not rate a mention.

Warren Durdin, Latham


David Smith (Letters, June 30) accuses me of not reading his letter (24/6) carefully. I plead not guilty. Smith wondered how I would describe Labor's 170 Senate activities in the years 1950 to 1970. In my letter (26/6) I told him how I would describe them. I offered no opinion on what Smith might have thought about the appropriateness of the events of 1975.

Frank Marris, Forrest

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