Showing posts with label Federal Election 2016. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Federal Election 2016. Show all posts

Friday, 28 July 2017

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts' British citizenship renunciation timeline not clear

On Sunday 8 May 2016the Prime Minister announced there would be a federal election on 2 July that year.

Writs were issued on 16 May and the rolls closed 23 May 2016.

At 12 noon on Thursday 9 June 2016 close of nominations for both House of Representatives and Senate candidates occurred.

Early voting commenced on 14 June and Election Day ended at 6pm on 2 July 2016.

According to One Nation Senator Malcolm Ieuan Roberts as reported in The Age on 27 July 2017; he wrote to the British authorities on May 1 last year to ask them whether he was a British citizen, given he was born to a Welsh father in India.
He says he got no response so he wrote a further email on June 6 - three days before nominations closed - saying that if he was a citizen he fully renounced. He subsequently nominated as a candidate and won a Queensland Senate seat.

However, this tweet by Chief Political Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, James Massola, throws Malcolm Roberts assertion that he was not a British citizen at the time of nomination into doubt.

It appears that U.K. authorities and Mr. Roberts may possibly have different views of when he ceased to be a British citizen.

I strongly suspect that the High Court of Australia would be inclined to accept the word of the U.K. Government over that of Malcolm Roberts if this difference is confirmed.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

For all those political tragics out there: the 1.419 million sq kms* which became three Coalition MP-free zones on 2 July 2016

A total of six states and two territories make up the Commonwealth of Australia - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Did all of these eight elect at least one Coalition candidate to the House of Representatives on 2 July 2016? No.

Three returned zero Liberal Party or National Party MPs - Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

In the Northern Territory the lone Country Liberal incumbent Natasha Griggs lost her seat to Labor and the second Territory seat remained with Labor.
In the ACT both lower house seats were retained by Labor.
Out of the five Tasmanian seats three were held by the Liberals after the 2013 election – these were all lost at this election with Eric Hutchinson, Brett Whitely and Andrew Nikolic being sacked by their electorates.

It would appear that while Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s millions may possibly have brought him government in a closely fought election for the 226 upper and lower house seats, it couldn’t buy him this one small state or either territory**.

* The combined land area of Tasmania, Northern Territory and ACT is 1,419,888 sq kms - over 18 per cent of Australia's land mass - according to Geoscience Australia.

** The Nationals look set to retain one of the two Northern Territory senate seats and the Liberals to retain one of the two ACT senate seats - the count to date indicates it is also likely that four of the twelve Tasmanian senate seats will be held by the Liberals.

Friday, 15 July 2016

For all those political tragics out there: Page polling booths which didn't vote for Nationals Kevin Hogan

National Party incumbent Kevin Hogan received 44.68% of the 100,358 formal first preference votes counted and, was returned in the Page electorate by a margin of 5,524 two-party preferred votes with a swing against him of 0.35%* compared to the est. 6.71% swing towards him in 2013.

An est. 26% of all Page electorate polling booths failed to return Kevin Hogan - Brooms Head, Casino North, Cawongla, Clunes, Dunoon, Goolmangar, Goonellabah, Grafton East, Jiggi, Kyogle South, Lismore, Lismore East, Lismore Heights, Lismore North, Lismore South, Meerschaum Vale, Nimbin, Red Rock, Rosebank, Sandy Beach, South Grafton, Sydney, Tabulam, The Channon, Wardell, Whiporie, and Woombah.

The bottom line for Mr. Hogan is that est. 55.32% of the voters in his electorate chose to vote for anyone but him. A marked increase since 2013 when only 47.48% of voters preferred other candidates,

Perhaps this figure will finally light a fire under his seat and he will begin to actively represent the interests of communities in his electorate - not just blindly play follow the leader when he votes in the Australian parliament.

* As of 6pm 14 July 2015 5,363 declaration votes were still to be processed.
   At 6.62 pm nationally 85.7% of the vote had been counted and only 1 seat remained in doubt.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Liberal Party blame game begins in earnest

After seven days of blaming Labor, the Greens, GetUp!, Twitter, the unions and/or the stupidity of voters generally, finally someone in the Liberal Party of Australia begins to be somewhat truthful about reasons behind the electorate’s loss of confidence in the Abbott-Turnbull Government.

Although Michael Kroger's naming of just the current prime minister and treasurer in relation to the loss of  possibly 14 seats in the recent federal election indicates a failure to accept that this Coalition Government was toxic from the moment it was sworn in on 18 September 2013.

Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger has sheeted the blame for the government's disappointing election result to the Prime Minister and his Treasurer, citing a lack of "economic leadership in the country" as one of the key reasons the party failed at the polls.

Mr Kroger also pointed to a period of policy confusion between last September and May when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison floated potential changes to the GST, the ability of the states to raise their own taxes, negative gearing, capital gains tax and superannuation.

Amid the period of policy confusion, Mr Turnbull took to Facebook to publicly deny a Fairfax Media report that he was killing Abbott government's Tax White Paper, and then five months later killed the Tax White Paper

"It was a period of absolute confusion for business and for voters," said one senior Victorian Liberal on Saturday.

Speaking on Melbourne gay and lesbian radio station Joy 94.9 on Saturday, Mr Kroger blamed the government's back-flipping on policies for its electoral failure.

"In that period when we were putting things on and off the table and the electorate formed the opinion, 'well if you fellas, if you people, don't know what [you] are doing, that's a problem'," he said.

Mr Kroger said backflips on the GST, in particular, hurt the government at the polls. "The electorate got a view that we didn't have a clear idea of where we wanted to take the country in terms of the economy." 

Asked by host David McCarthy if the party had "lost the campaign", Mr Kroger said "it is not the campaign that people should focus on, it's what happened on the period September to May".

In September last year Tony Abbott lost the prime ministership to Mr Turnbull. 

Mr Kroger said the polls showed the Liberal Party had 56 per cent of the vote "when Malcolm came in" and that had fallen to just 49 per cent by the time the election campaign started.

"So it is not the campaign, it is this period September to May, and unfortunately, in that period, we didn't take the opportunity to take control of the economic leadership in the country," Mr Kroger said.

"The Liberal Party's number one brand equity, the reason people vote for the Liberal Party, is because we have a long and distinguished history of being better economic managers than Labor, and that's what the public think."

Mr Kroger suggested the government, through its repeated policy backflips, had lost that trust of traditional Liberal voters.

"Political parties have to take responsibility for their own performance," he said. "The results slid dramatically from a 56-44 result, where we were 12 per cent in front to one where we are either 1 per cent behind or to level. Something happened, something dramatic happened, it wasn't an accident, something dramatic happened."

However for other Liberals it is business as usual in the political blame game......

ABC News, 11 July 2016:

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne has lashed out at right-wing colleagues who anonymously brief the media, labelling them as "cowards".

Mr Pyne's criticism came as the ABC's election computer determined the Coalition had retained the central Queensland seat of Flynn, taking it to 75 seats, one short of forming a majority government.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's tight election win is expected to embolden conservative elements of the Coalition.

A conservative MP reportedly said right-wing backbenchers would now be able to dictate government policy.

"[The Prime Minister's] theory was to win and win comfortably, so the conservatives would all have to kneel at the altar of Malcolm Turnbull," the unnamed MP told News Corp.

"Well, I think someone else will be kneeling at the conservative altar now."

Mr Pyne said colleagues who snipe anonymously lacked "character" and "wherewithal".

"Whoever said that, if they did really say it, they should put their name to things like that," he told RN Breakfast.

"It sounds very brave and chest beating when you say it anonymously, but I'd love a person who says things like that to actually put their name to it.

"Because without their name it's just cowardice obviously ... cowardly statements in the press from anonymous sources who haven't got the wherewithal and the strength of character to put their names to those kinds of flowery statements."

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Post-Australian Federal Election 2016: feel the angst rising

Voter text to candidate, Twitter, 2 July 2016

Data shows that 18.94% of those eligible to vote in Cowper didn’t cast a ballot according to the Australian Electoral Commission on 5 July 2016.

ABC News, 4 July 2016:

Complaints are growing in Western Australia's north about late changes and limited polling options, which left hundreds of people unable to cast a vote in the federal election.
Shire of Halls Creek CEO Rodger Kerr-Newell said dozens of tourists were turned away from the town's polling station on Saturday.
"There were issues ... there was not interstate voting," Mr Kerr-Newell said.
"Halls Creek has a very large population of tourists at this time of year and they were denied the opportunity to vote."
According to Mr Kerr-Newell, several tourists came to the shire to complain….
Complaints have also surfaced from several Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara and Kimberley.

WA Today, 6 July 2016:

Callers to Radio 6PR's Breakfast rumour file said on Tuesday several polling places across WA ran out of ballot papers on election day, leaving many with no opportunity to vote.
Polling stations near Caversham, in the electorate of Hasluck, were said to have combined leaving a shortfall of ballot papers come the afternoon…..
In the electorate of Pearce, it was claimed the only polling station in Aveley and Bullsbrook ran out of ballot papers, as did the only two available in Quinns Rock…..
There is also trouble brewing in the knife-edge Perth seat of Cowan, with Sky News reporting that up to 150 votes were not properly signed off by an AEC officer, potentially rendering them void.

ABC News, 7 July 2016:

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and the voting system have come under intense scrutiny as reports of ballot issues in several seats continue to emerge.
Four states have been affected by mishaps, including shortages and incorrect distribution of ballot papers.
Many people have claimed they were unable to vote on July 2 and some votes have even been ruled informal due to AEC errors…..
The blunder happened under the supervision of an early polling mobile ballot team which visited various health and aged care establishments across the region….
Queensland senator Glenn Lazarus, who has not been returned, said many Queensland voters had contacted him to complain they were unable to vote due to polling booths running out of ballot papers.
The Glenn Lazarus team is compiling information from those around the country who were unable to vote which will then be lodged with the AEC as a bulk complaint.
Mr Lazarus has created an online form for people to complete which has been shared more than 600 times on Facebook.
"According to many people they were told by AEC staff to check their name off the electoral roll so they could be excused from voting to avoid a fine because the polling booth had run out of ballot papers," Mr Lazarus said…..
The AEC said it was investigating reports of wrong ballot papers being handed out in the electorate of Higgins.
For the first six minutes of voting at a South Yarra polling station, voters were given ballot papers for a neighbouring seat.
ABC political analyst Barrie Cassidy said an ABC staff member was one of several people who received the wrong paper.
"He went back and said, 'It's not the right paper'," Cassidy said.
"They got the supervisor. They noticed other such ballot papers had been torn off."…..
Independent candidate Rob Oakeshott and Greens candidate Carol Vernon, who both ran for the seat of Cowper, have lodged an official complaint with the AEC claiming the neighbouring seat ran out of Cowper absentee ballot papers.
Those who voted in the electorate of Lyne were reportedly told they would be signed off the electoral roll but would not be able to cast a ballot.
"People turned out to vote and didn't have the chance to have their say, and it's their right to do so," Mr Oakeshott told the Coffs Coast Advocate.
He said it was unclear how many people were unable to vote but he urged the AEC to clarify the issue.

Fresh voting controversy has hit Western Australia after residents at a nursing home in the Pearce electorate were counted as informal voters after being given Victorian ballot papers by mistake.
The Australian Electoral Commission confirmed a mobile voting unit gave the 105 residents the Victorian senate papers on Thursday.
"The Senate is a statewide vote, and I can't speculate on what the impact might be, except to say that together with 47,000 votes already deemed informal [in WA] those 105 are also informal and will play no further part in the determination of the election result," the commission's state manager Marie Neilson told News Talk 6PR on Thursday.  

ABC News
, 8 July 2016:

On election day, Defence said just under 1,300 ADF members voted at the special polling stations in the exercise area, but that the Army had to truck another 1,400 or so to civilian booths in places such as Port Augusta.
Defence said AEC staff and volunteers stayed back for up to three hours - until 9pm - to process the huge lines.
But it still was not enough.
In a statement Defence said: "628 Army members did not cast their votes. Of this number, 543 are from the 1st Brigade."

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Take a bow Twitter in Australia - a large part of the reason Turnbull & Co weren't unconditionally loved by the electorate on 2 July 2016 is your fault!

Excerpt from Sky News Australian Agenda 3 July 2016 interview with Liberal Senator for Tasmania George Brandis:

Can I just ask, do you think we are seeing deeper changes in Australian politics? We have now gone for a decade and the evidence is that it's very hard for a first-term government to it be re-elected. The electorate seems to be more impatient and more critical. Do you think that's right?

I do, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I think one of the drivers of this is the increasing velocity of events. Another is the trivialisation of political communication through Twitter and things like that. There are a lot of phenomena that sociologists and political scientists will no doubt write about, but I do think that the velocity of events, the increasing accelerating velocity of events and the trivialisation of political discourse have a lot to do with it.

Take a bow, Aussie twerps.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: state of play on the morning of 6 July 2016

Inching towards a result.....

Australian Electoral Commission, 6 July 2016 at 1am

Mediscare, shmediscare

Essential Report, 5 June 2016

The baying and bleating coming from the designated Liberal-Nationals corner of the schoolyard over the so-called Mediscare is odd to say the least.

Take this text message that allegedly turned up on an unknown number of mobile phones:

That particular Queensland Labor text has been referred to the Australian Federal Police by someone within Coalition ranks.

This mob point the finger at one example of a text message sent on the last day of the federal election campaign while bellowing We wuz robbed!

Never mind that est. 69% of people who voted Labor had made their minds up about their first preference vote from two weeks to over a month ago and, est. 75% of Liberal-Nationals voters had done the same.

Ignore the fact that almost 3 million voters had pre-polled by 30 June 2016 and it was impossible for the last day of the election campaign to affect them.

Pretend that it is beyond a reasonable person's understanding to realize this means that over 8.11 million voters would probably not have been influenced by that tweet even if they had received it.

No,no. There was a !!Mediscare!! which lied about the best friends that Medicare ever had and lost the Coalition votes and seats.

All those attempts to whittle away at universal heath care that the Liberals and Nationals have  tried over the years and of which the general public were well aware? Phfft! Means nothing says Turnbull & Co.


The Age, 15 April 2005:

Prime Minister John Howard has refused to rule out further cuts to the Medicare safety net, following yesterday's announcement that  low-income earners face a 75 per cent rise in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Subsidies for 400,000 Australians with big medical bills will be axed under the clawback of the Medicare safety net, announced yesterday.

In his second broken election promise in six months, Prime Minister John Howard yesterday announced that the poor will now have to spend $500 - up from $306 - before the Government picks up most of their health costs.

Others will have to pay $1000, compared with $716 under the existing system.
"This is not a popular decision, I understand that," Mr Howard told ABC radio this morning. ``People will be disappointed, people will be critical, I accept that.

"I don't like having to make this announcement, but I had a choice between maintaining something, the cost of which was ratcheting up, or alternatively taking some unpopular decisions now so that in the long term we can keep the safety net."

He said while a safety net would remain under the Coalition, he refused to promise that there would be no more changes.

"We don't have any (changes) in mind, but I am not going to give an iron-clad guarantee in relation to that," he said. 

Under the changes, foreshadowed in The Age last month, the number of families and individuals qualifying for help is projected to drop from 1.9 million last year to about 1.5 million in 2006, according to Government figures.

The backflip is a public humiliation for Health Minister Tony Abbott, who last year gave an "absolutely rock-solid, ironclad commitment" that the safety net would remain unchanged.

ABC Radio The World Today, 27 April 2005:

ELEANOR HALL: Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott's comments on the possible budget cutback to Medicare-funded IVF treatments have prompted a leading IVF specialist to speak out.
Dr David Molloy says he's stunned by the minister's assertion there has to be "some limit" on the funds the Government is prepared to spend on elective and non-essential procedures like IVF.
And he warns that Mr Abbott has just opened up a whole new argument on the future of Medicare and the procedures it will fund. 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2014:

Health Minister Peter Dutton has also signalled that Medicare could be means-tested with access to bulk-billing and medical tests such as X-rays, blood tests limited to those on lower incomes, in a News Corp report.
Mr Dutton questioned why those on higher incomes should be able to go to the doctor ''for free'' and said it was ''one of the discussions . . . we have to have''.

Australian Parliamentary LibraryBudget Review 2014–15 Index:

Patient co-payment

A $7 patient co-payment on bulk-billed general practice (GP) visits, and out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services, will apply from 1 July 2015. In addition, the MBS rebate for these services will be cut by $5, regardless of whether they are bulk billed.[1] For concession card holders and children under 16, the rebate reduction will only apply for the first 10 visits a year, after which the full MBS rebate will apply.[2] Certain MBS services, such as Health Assessments and Chronic Disease Management items will be quarantined from the co-payment. Savings of $3.5 billion over five years will be used to fund a new Medical Research Future Fund.
The imposition of the co-payment is to ensure all patients contribute to the cost of their health care.

Under current Medicare arrangements doctors are free set their own fees, but those who choose to bulk bill accept the MBS rebate as full payment for the service and cannot charge a co-payment. The rebate for out-of-hospital services is 85 per cent of the Medicare Schedule Fee, but GP services attract a 100 per cent rebate.[3] Under this measure, doctors will have the discretion to charge a co-payment of $7 for bulk billed and other services, but their Medicare rebate will also be reduced by $5. This means they will be worse off each time they bulk bill unless they impose the co-payment…..

Other savings

Savings of $99.2 million over the forward estimates will also be achieved by lowering the MBS rebate for optometry services (from 85 to 80 per cent of the Schedule fee), and removing a charging cap. The time period for Medicare rebatable eye examinations will also be extended from two to three years for asymptomatic people under 65, and reduced from two to one year for those over 65.

National Rural Health Alliance Briefing Paper, The future of Medicare, February 2015:


Under the original version of the Abbott Government's proposed co-payment, patients would have been charged a co-payment of $7 per visit to the GP, and for each episode of pathology testing and diagnostic imaging. The co-payment was to be waived for concession card holders after 10 visits, offering them some protection against high out of pocket costs.

In the next iteration of the proposal, the Government made the co-payment optional (the decision being left to the GP) but also proposed to reduce the Medicare rebate by $5 for short consultations. It expected some GPs to 'choose to recoup the $5 rebate reduction through an optional co-payment'. In order to protect vulnerable people, the Government proposed to keep in place incentives that encourage GPs to bulk-bill concession card holders and children under 16.

Subsequently, the Government proposed changes to the funding rules for GP consultations along with substantial rebate reductions for short (Level A) consultations; the changes were meant to discourage 'six-minute medicine'. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) complained that the changes would disadvantage experienced and efficient GPs, and would exacerbate problems with timely access to care. It also pointed out that the costs (of the rebate reduction) would likely be passed on to patients. Because of the outcry from health, community service and rights-based interest groups (including the medical profession) over these proposed changes, the Government is now consulting with the sector. However it appears to be committed to bulk-billing only for 'vulnerable' and concessional patients.

The Government's intention to move away from pursuing high bulk-billing rates is an important change in policy direction and its implications for Medicare, and the principles it was founded on, need to be closely examined. In our view, restricting bulk-billing only to vulnerable patients would be a retrograde step. It is vital that the cost of care does not prevent people from using primary care services. However there is evidence that this is already happening….

The importance of keeping Medicare universal

Medicare was designed to provide Australians with universal access to high-quality health care regardless of where they live, or their ability to pay. It was not designed to be a safetynet scheme for those without the means to pay for private insurance, nor was it meant to compete in the market alongside private health insurers. When past governments have experimented with reforms to health insurance along these lines, they found that the results were disappointing. Rather than helping to constrain expenditure on health, opt-out versions of Medicare made it more difficult to contain health care costs because the anticipated benefits of competition - lower prices - did not materialise in the insurance or medical markets.

Because it is financed through taxation, Medicare provides an equitable means of paying for health care. Those with greater means contribute more through our progressive taxation system and help cover the health care costs of those with less. The facility to leverage larger contributions towards the cost of health care from those on higher incomes already exists under Medicare. As a result, less equitable policies, such as compulsory co-payments, are unnecessary in the Australian context.

We believe that the universal nature of Medicare embodies the Australian spirit of 'a fair go for all'. Not only does the principle of universality reflect our past and our values, it also provides an efficient and equitable means of funding access to health care. For these reasons, we oppose any reforms that undermine the universal nature of Medicare and seek to transform it into a safety net scheme for the poor. Instead, we urge the Government to look for alternative means of protecting the sustainability of Medicare: changes that will preserve both equity and efficiency.

SBS News, 28 December 2015:

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler says the removal of items from the Medicare Benefits Schedule could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Monday 23 tests and procedures, including ear, nose and throat surgeries and diagnostic imaging, have been recommended for removal as part of a major shake up of Medicare.
Ms Ley said in a statement the 23 items, which also include gastroenterology, obstetrics and thoratic medicine services, cost $6.8 million in the past year and were used 52,500 times….
He said some patients would be left out-of-pocket as some of the items recommended for removal were part of other procedures or were used for very specific circumstances.

The West Australian, 9 February 2016:

Medicare, pharmaceutical and aged-care benefits would be delivered by the private sector under an extraordinary transformation of health services being secretly considered by the Federal Government.

The West Australian has learnt that planning for the ambitious but politically risky outsourcing of government payments is well-advanced, with a view to making it a key feature of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first Budget in May.

To be put to the market a few weeks later, the $50 billion-plus outsourcing would be the first time the private sector has delivered a national service subsidised by the government.

It would replace back-office operations done by bureaucrats.

They would administer claims and payments while overseeing eligibility criteria, meaning they would require access to people’s sensitive private information.

Doctors would also have to open their books to the provider, , which would be subject to regulatory oversight.

The payment system task force run by bureaucrat John Cahill is believed to have proposed a “proof of concept” trial next year. It would require companies being selected this year.

Australia Post, eftpos providers, Telstra and the big banks are showing interest given they have online payment and supply structures.

Foreign multinationals may also bid including Serco, Fuji-Xerox and Accenture. When former treasurer Joe Hockey flagged outsourcing Medicare payments in 2014, the Community and Public Sector Union warned of thousands of job losses. The Australian Medical Association has also spoken against the privatisation of Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Within a fortnight, accountants Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, Deloitte and Boston Consulting and will lodge bids to design the business case for the potential privatisation.

Though it would come with a short-term cost — possibly billions of dollars — to rebuild data and payment systems, the Government believes it would recoup much more later….

Labor Herald, 29 April 2016:

More than half a million Australians have signed a petition opposing the Turnbull government’s $650m cuts to Medicare, sending a clear warning to Malcolm Turnbull: hands off our Medicare.

ABC News, 3 May 2016:

Health experts say many of the budget measures will mean patients are worse-off.
Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells said the Government's move to freeze Medicare rebates over the next three years could potentially increase the pressure on GPs to drop bulk billing and charge additional fees.
"The vote of a future Senate could also mean a range of fresh out-of-pocket costs, including a $5 rise in the co-payment for prescribed medicines and cutting of the $630 million in bulk-billing incentives to pathologists and radiologists," Ms Wells said.
"These measures will discourage the sort of reform we need to support a primary health care system that would improve care for those with chronic and complex illness."

Within weeks of its election in 2013 the Coalition entertained a proposal from a former advisor to Tony Abbott as health minister to end free visits to the doctor by requiring a mandatory co-payment of $6. Anyone who didn't like it would be invited to take out private health gap insurance.

Its Commission of Audit recommended a co-payment of $15 per visit and $5 per concession card holder, and then its first budget announced that "previously bulk-billed patients can expect to contribute $7 towards to cost of standard consultations." Medicare Rebates would be cut by $5 and bulk billing incentives would "only be paid to providers when they collect the $7 patient contribution". It encouraged public hospitals to charge public patients who walked in off the street in order to stem the leakage from doctors.

Seven months later Abbott dumped the $7 co-payment and replaced it with a $5 co-payment, all of which was to come from doctors, also abandoning that a few months later. Then he announced plans to slash the Medicare Rebate for short visits from $37.05 to $16.95, also abandoning that a few weeks later.

In his second budget he extended an existing one-year freeze on the Medicare Rebates by a further five years to 2020. By then doctors incomes would have fallen 15 per cent relative to other incomes unless they abandoned bulk billing.

And he booked a budget saving of $57 billion over 10 years by lifting grants to states for running hospitals by much less than the cost of running them, a good deal of which is still baked in to the Turnbull government's budget numbers.

Within a year of taking office he called for expressions of interest from the private sector in running the $29 billion Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims system. Among the Australian firms that are believed to have responded are Eftpos, Australia Post and Telstra offshoot Stellar. Among the foreign companies are British services giant Serco, which provides immigration detention centre services, Japanese-US technology giant Fuji-Xerox, German software house SAP and US professional services firm Accenture.

Malcolm Turnbull went into the election campaign continuing to defend the outsourcing option, only to abandon it on Q&A after it came to be conflated with privatisation.

The scare campaign worked because Medicare's supporters were already scared.

@otiose94, 5 July 2016


A little more history on the subject……

The Conversation, 5 July 2016

The Whitlam government’s Medibank program, the predecessor of Medicare, faced furious opposition from the Liberals and (then) Country Party. Allied with the Australian Medical Association, the conservative opposition fought the introduction of universal health insurance, blocking it in the Senate.

The Medibank legislation was forced through parliament in 1974 after a double dissolution election and the only joint sitting of both houses of Parliament. Even then, a rearguard High Court action invalidated crucial funding legislation. As a result of this resistance, Medibank was introduced in July 1975, only four months before the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

The Fraser Coalition government initially kept its promise to preserve Medibank. But through a series of complicated “reforms”, Fraser kept the name, but gradually turned the remnants into a means tested “welfare” system. In 1981 Medibank was abolished completely and Australia returned to the patchy and chaotic coverage of subsidised private health insurance.

This pattern of hostility was replicated against the Hawke government’s Medicare, which was introduced in 1984. For the next decade, Coalition politicians promised to set Australians free from the shackles of compulsory national health insurance.

The electorate was unimpressed. The low point of these attempts to replace universal coverage came with Peter Shack, the Liberal shadow health minister, admitting he had no workable policy going into the 1990 election:

“I want to say with all the frankness I can muster, the Liberal and National Parties do not have a particularly good track record in health, and you don’t need me to remind you of our last period in government.”

Coalition hostility to Medicare played a big part in Labor’s very successful scare campaign in the 1993 “GST” election. The John Hewson-led opposition promised to end bulk billing and restore the supremacy of private insurance. Analysts have determined the Medicare issue as more important than the GST in Keating’s triumph.

This sorry tale appeared to end in 1996. John Howard, heading for a Coalition landslide, reassured voters that not only would his government be “relaxed and comfortable”, but he recognised the error of attacking Medicare. He declared Australians “want Medicare kept” and pledged that “Medicare will remain totally in place under a Coalition government”…..

Howard froze the level of GP rebates (fees) in the 1996 budget. This slowly squeezed GP incomes, forcing many to abandon bulk billing and charge upfront fees. Whether intentional or not, the decline of bulk billing revived old fears of Coalition intentions towards Medicare.

By 2003 the issue was hurting the government so badly, a new health minister, Tony Abbott, came in with an open cheque book to end the crisis. Even then, new bulk billing incentives were aimed selectively at children and pensioners. Howard argued:

“it was never the design [of Medicare] … to guarantee bulk billing for every citizen.”

An extension of this “safety net” argument was a commitment to private health insurance. Both the Fraser and Howard governments tried to force higher-income earners into private insurance. The Howard government subsidised private insurance – but kept it largely to coverage of hospital and specialist services, maintaining Medicare’s monopoly over GP services.

The Abbott government’s Commission of Audit ended this truce. It argued that:

“Expanded private health insurance coverage should be introduced for basic health services currently covered by Medicare. Higher-income earners should be required to insure for basic health services in place of Medicare.”

Political commentator Nikki Savva has argued the Commission’s position shocked Abbott and he ignored most of its recommendations. However, it is not surprising that when his government attempted to bring in new GP co-payments (a Commission recommendation), these were read as part of a fundamental assault on Medicare principles of bulk billing and universality.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Explaining the 2016 federal election result

The mainstream media is currently indulging in a political post mortem orgy and, in the end what its bloody dissection reveals is less about the political processes involved in the federal election campaign and more about the media itself.
Even given the official polling day fell within school holidays, one would have thought that the MSM would have paused to wonder if the record number of voters marching towards the prepoll stations in June might have indicated that the electorate was about to flex its muscle.
In recent years journalists have ignored the fact that in Australia the electorate has always had a contrary mind of its own. 
That the only truism that holds in every election is that it does not vote to install one particular political party in government – it votes in the hope of keeping a political party from either gaining government or gaining enough power to control both houses of parliament.
Hence the current state of play in the national ballot paper count.
Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is learning to his cost that he could change the rules on voting at Senate elections or he could call a double dissolution federal election – he just couldn’t do both without punishment.
Anthony John Abbott is learning that passive-aggressive election campaigning and failure to appear genuinely contrite for past failures also imposes a real political cost on the party he once led.
William Richard Shorten’s lesson is that it may just possibly take not one but two election cycles before Labor is fully forgiven for its self-indulgent federal in-fighting between 2007-2013.

Here are two of The Guardian’s ‘best’ efforts to explain the 2 July election result….. 
The Guardian, 4 July 2016:
At the moment the Liberal party is a burnt and broken enterprise and to repair it may be quite impossible. 
Tony Abbott’s baton of failure has been passed to Malcolm Turnbull. The party is stuck in a miserable warp that locks out the country’s crying unresolved issues, and there’s no one in the wings with the integrity, intellect and command to drag it out of its pitiable state.
The great issues of the day that define who we are as a country were not part of the Coalition’s play sheet, and this includes: climate change, offshore imprisonment of refugees and marriage equality. Instead, we had the mirage of an economic “plan” for jobs and growth, which on closer inspection turned out to be trickle-down economics based on a bunch of tax cuts for the better off.  
Turnbull says he can form a majority government, in which event it will be a sour little victory – a victory without a mandate. The hard-right soul of the party is also in flames – just look at what happened in Tasmania where Senator Eric Abetz’s Christian regressives run the local machine. There’s no moral authority to be found there – all we might hope for is that now he sits quietly in a corner for a very long time. 
The party started to take a primordial direction under John Howard, who is now paraded as a patron saint. The Liberals failed to heed the message that was delivered in 2007 when the saint was flung ignominiously by voters out of his own seat. 
Turnbull and Scott Morrison crying foul on Saturday night about Labor party lies was a treat to behold. The “we wus robbed” line coming from the people who brought us children overboard, Islamic scares, the “intelligence” for the Iraq war and fake budget projections is an exciting new audacity. Even the party’s very name is a lie. 
The campaign was laced with warnings about “hung parliaments”, “vote sharing fiascos”, “chaos”. The obverse is that MPs should be puppets and parliament a rubber stamp for the party with the majority of seats, doing what the executive commands – yet “stability” has not been a uniform feature of the long history of Westminster-style parliaments. Indeed, the Senate has ensured that in Australia hung parliaments are the norm and minority governments are not unknown. 
Importantly, this state of affairs is not always unworkable. Julia Gillard’s government operated both as a minority and in a hung parliament quite effectively, even if chaotically. 
With the support of crossbenchers and the Greens, the Gillard Labor government passed 561 bills through parliament, not one of which was defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives, including the National Broadband Network, the carbon tax, the resource rent tax (even though it turned out not to be very effective), the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the household assistance package, and pension increases. Despite the raucous attacks from the Coalition, by any standard it was an effective government…..
The Guardian, 3 July 2016:
It hadn’t even got to 11pm before the campaign post-mortems and leadership speculation began.
On the Coalition side.
I confess: sitting on the Sky News election desk, I could barely believe the booth results as they started coming in. I had expected it to be close; I had even (bravely) predicted a hung parliament. But if I am honest, I had been dreading the election night desk duty just a little, expecting to spend my time explaining why Labor was not picking up enough seats in western Sydney.
In fact, I had expected that I would need to answer questions about the future of Bill Shorten’s leadership.
Instead, before either party leader had addressed their party faithful, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership was under question, and the blue on blue violence was underway. Cory Bernardi was arguing with Mark Textor on Twitter, Peta Credlin was calling the double dissolution a strategic mistake, and Andrew Bolt was demanding Turnbull resign.
How did this happen?
Let’s start with an uninspiring and tactically foolish campaign from the Coalition. The proposed company tax cuts never excited the electorate, no matter how exciting it is to be alive in these times.
The Coalition’s superannuation policy divided its party faithful and disappointed their donors.
The predicted scare campaigns from the Coalition – on negative gearing, on border security, on unions, and on election costings – never materialised.
And Malcolm Turnbull, having seized the prime ministership, never seized the economic leadership as he promised to do. Turnbull’s economic narrative was incoherent, flip flopping between increasing the GST, allow the state to levy income taxes, fixing bracket creep, and giving companies a tax break.
His campaign slogan didn’t even include a verb, for goodness’ sake. “Jobs and growth” isn’t a plan, it’s a list.
Turnbull’s campaign events were orchestrated, low-risk, and low-key. Look at the Coalition’s campaign launch: I’ve been to christenings with more people in attendance and wakes with more enthusiasm. He never seemed to actually fight for the job; rather he sat back waiting for the people to elect him…..

And here is The Australian pretending the sky has fallen down about our ears….. 
The Australian, 4 July 2016:
Australia’s top corporate figures have reacted with dismay to the possibility of a hung parliament or wafer-thin Coalition majority, warning economic reform could be paralysed for years.
As business anxiously waits on the counting of postal votes that won’t start until tomorrow, Seven Group Holdings executive chairman Kerry Stokes described the uncertainty of the weekend’s result as “disastrous” and said the current landscape in Canberra was “bad for investment and business”.
Mr Stokes was joined by other business leaders, who told The Australian that key planks of the Coalition’s reform agenda — including company tax cuts and the re-establishment of the construction industry watchdog — will be hostage to a precarious lower house majority and obstructive new Senate crossbench. Economists have also warned of an increased risk of a credit downgrade for Australia, based on the likely difficulty of passing unpopular budget repair measures.
“I think it’s disastrous,” Mr Stokes said late yesterday.
“There has been uncertainty for eight weeks.”
Now, he said, “the facts are it’s more uncertain”.
“So that’s a disaster, whichever way you want to look at it. I don’t know any way of dealing with that now to gain stability.”….
The Australian, 4 July 2016:
The double dissolution has been a double disaster for Malcolm Turnbull. Not only is his grip on power hanging from the precipice but voters have wilfully ignored his plea for stability by deliberately voting for minor parties and independents.
With 13 seats still in doubt, it remains possible the crossbench could control both houses of parliament, making the task for whoever lives in The Lodge doubly difficult.
Even if Turnbull stumbles to victory, he will govern by a wafer-thin majority and must keep one eye on each crossbench in each chamber with no margin to lose a slither of support in his own partyroom.
As the count currently stands, the Coalition’s primary vote of 42 per cent is one of its three worst results in the House of Representatives since the party created by Robert Menzies faced its first election 70 years ago.
Labor are celebrating a performance under Bill Shorten they never dreamed of achieving three years ago when the party was punted from power in the wake of the Rudd-Gillard civil war, but the primary vote of 35 per cent is the ALP’s second worst in 82 years.
The combined vote of minor and micro parties and independents is 22.8 per cent — the highest it has been since 1934 and third highest since Federation. It is the preferences of these protest votes that will decide who wins many seats.
The major parties did not secure the confidence of the voting public. No wonder we still don’t have a clear election winner.
Both parties have a smaller share of the vote than they did in 2010 when voters delivered the last hung parliament.
It is a repudiation to both Turnbull and Shorten and their appeal to voters to give them a majority, making clear they would not strike alliances with minor parties.
Shorten said the Greens were “dreaming” if they hoped to form an alliance.
Turnbull repeatedly issued the reminder that a vote for anyone other than the Liberals or Nationals would be a return to the “chaos and instability” of the hung parliament under the Gillard government.
If that was supposed to scare people, it failed.
Voters not only ignored the Prime Minister but they have forced him to get on the phone to the lower house crossbenchers — some of whom were in this position six years ago taking calls from Julia Gillard.
Shorten has also been on the phone and Labor is not ruling out the possibility it might just be able to win enough of the undecided seats on the preferences of the minor parties and independents and strike a deal with the crossbench to govern.
It’s a horror flashback to the 17-day wait in 2010 to find out who would form government……

While The Sydney Morning Herald plodded its way through this…..

Especially with all the major polls predicting a tight result. I certainly did when I took a deep breath and hopped aboard the Turnbull bus to cover the final two weeks of the campaign. 
They turned out to be anything but. 
Rather than a man locked in the fight of his life, Turnbull looked like a footballer running down the clock. The pace of the campaign - already at a low tempo - grew positively languid. 
"We will win on July 2," Turnbull had declared weeks earlier and he was acting like it as he strolled towards the finish line. A busy day contained two events, some just one….  
Malcolm Turnbull has assured Australians he can deliver stability but after a stinging rebuke from voters, the fate of his government may not be known for days and the Prime Minister is staring down an internal push from conservative MPs for the return of Tony Abbott to the ministry.
With the final lower house seat count from the knife-edge election unlikely to be clear until the end of the week, anger is growing within the Coalition over its massive reversal of electoral fortunes, which has ended the careers of three ministers, stymied industrial relations reforms used to justify the double dissolution, and dealt up an even more unruly Senate crossbench.
Three outcomes remain possible from the election, including a razor-thin Turnbull majority if seats in doubt tumble its way, a hung parliament in which neither side has a majority, and another election is even an outside possibility if a clear winner cannot be determined.
On Sunday night, Labor took an unexpected lead in the two-party preferred vote after an update on the Australian Electoral Commission's website.
It showed the swing away from the Coalition had risen to 3.7 per cent, putting Labor in the lead by a wafer-thin margin…..