Thursday, 10 August 2017

If you're not feeling well but think things can't get any worse - you forgot to factor in the Australian Minister for Health's cost cutting ways


The Age, 4 August 2017:

State and territory health ministers say hospital treatments and services will suffer under a Commonwealth proposal to withhold budgeted funds and reduce spending.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has drafted a directive to the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority to review its public hospital funding method.

It would result in retrospective funds not being paid and reduced services in future, Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said in a joint statement issued after the COAG Health Council meeting in Brisbane on Friday.

Mr Hunt drew condemnation from Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT when he confirmed he would uphold the direction.

"States and Territories have already funded services and boosted frontline staffing taking into consideration Commonwealth funding," the statement said.


Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), media release, 17 July 2017:
IHPA releases Consultation Paper on Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19
The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) today released its Consultation Paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19. The consultation is open to the public until Thursday 17 August 2017.
The Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19 outlines the major policy decisions which will underpin the National Efficient Price and National Efficient Cost Determinations for 2018-19.
This year IHPA will seek feedback regarding work that has been progressed on pricing and funding for safety and quality as well as canvassing options to enable new and innovative approaches to value based or preventative health care models.
The Chair of the Pricing Authority, Shane Solomon said, “IHPA has continued to work closely with the jurisdictions, clinicians and other stakeholders to make significant progress on the implementation of national reforms to incorporate safety and quality into the pricing and funding of public hospitals in Australia.
“A range of factors must now be considered including risk adjustment and how the approach can be embedded as part of broader system change.
“The success of a safety and quality pricing and funding mechanism is dependent on national, state, and local health systems working together to support the implementation of a model and ensure that it is working to improve safety and quality across all services,” he said.
“The Consultation Paper is an important opportunity for stakeholders to engage with IHPA on the approach to pricing and funding for safety and quality as well as the emergence of new innovative pricing models to help improve public hospital services across Australia. We strongly encourage all interested parties to provide feedback as part of this process,” concluded Mr Solomon.
The Consultation Paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2018-19 is available on the IHPA website.
Submissions should be emailed as an accessible Word document to submissions.ihpa@ihpa.gov.au or mailed to PO Box 483, Darlinghurst NSW 1300 by 5pm on Thursday 17 August 2017.
– ENDS –

Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Ministerial Direction, 16 February 2017:
Ministerial Direction
On 16 February 2017 IHPA received a Ministerial Direction from the Hon. Greg Hunt under section 226(1) of the National Health Reform Act 2011.
The Direction requires that IHPA undertake implementation of agreed recommendations of the COAG Health Council on pricing for safety and quality to give effect to:
  1. nil funding for a public hospital episode including a sentinel event which occurs on or after 1 July 2017, applying to all relevant episodes of care (being admitted and other episodes) in hospitals where the services are funded on an activity basis and hospitals where services are block funded; and
  2. an appropriate reduced funding level for all hospital acquired complications, in accordance with Option 3 of the draft Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2017-18, as existing on 30 November 2016, to reflect the additional cost of a hospital admission with a hospital acquired complication, to be applied across all public hospitals; and
  3. undertake further public consultation to inform a future pricing and funding approach in relation to avoidable hospital readmissions, based on a set of definitions to be developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
IHPA will incorporate the requirements under this Direction into the final Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospitals 2017-18 due to be published on the IHPA website in early March 2017.
IHPA will undertake further consultation as part of its annual consultation process on the draft Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospitals 2018-19 due for publication in June 2017 and provide a report back to the COAG Health Council by 30 November 2017.
Note: This follows on from a Direction received on 29 August 2016 which required IHPA to provide advice to the COAG Health Council on options for pricing for safety and quality.
More information
For any questions, please contact enquiries.ihpa@ihpa.gov.au
Links

Annual Eastern Freshwater Cod three-month fishing closure of the Mann and Nymboida Rivers and their tributaries is now in effect


The Daily Examiner, 3 August 2017, p.3:

Fishing closure

ANGLERS are reminded the annual three-month fishing closure of the Mann and Nymboida Rivers and their tributaries is now in effect.

The closed waters include the Mann River and all of its tributaries upstream of its junction with the Clarence River; and the Nymboida River and all of its tributaries from its junction with the Mann River upstream to Platypus Flat.

The closure does not apply to notified trout waters.

All fishing in the specified area is prohibited until October 31 to enable the endangered Eastern Freshwater Cod to spawn uninterrupted during its breeding season.

There will be an on-the-spot fine of $500 with maximum penalties of up to $44,000 and/or six months of imprisonment upon prosecution.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

This is what privatisation did to Australia's household electricity bills


When three eastern and one southern state formed the National Electricity Market in December 1998 Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada.

The rules which underpin this National Electricity Market are created by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) set up by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) - through the COAG Energy Council - for that purpose and to advise federal & state governments on how best to develop energy markets over time.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) sets the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using networks (electricity poles and wires and gas pipelines) that transport energy.

So far so good. There's a defined market and there are rules.

Then the privatisation of electricity supply and infrastructure began in earnest.

It should come as no surprise that this push towards full privatisation, with its downhill spiral in service delivery and uphill climb in cost to retail customers, began and was progressed during the term of Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

By 2017 the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government has almost completed its three-stage privatisation of state power infrastructure by selling off poles and wires and, it goes without saying that the retail cost of electricity is expected to rise again next year.

This is where we stand today……………………

[Graphs in Financial Review, 4 August 2017]
The Financial Review, 4 Augut 2017:

The annual cost to households of accepting a standing offer from one of the big three retailers instead of the best offer in the market has been estimated at $830 in Victoria, $900 in Queensland and $1400-$1500 in NSW and SA by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Mr Mountain said power bills are constructed in such a complex way that ordinary customers without sophisticated spreadsheet and analytical skills have little hope of analysing competing offers to work out which offers them the best deal.

Private comparison websites do not include all market offers and charge retailers for switching customers, while the websites offered by the Australian Energy Regulator and the Victorian government do not provide the tools customers need to discriminate among offers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to conduct an inquiry into electricity supply, costs and pricing, including retail pricing.

The Treasurer should have a preliminary report from the ACCC in his hands by the end of September this year, however this body does not submit a final report until 30 June 2018 with no guarantee that any recommendations will be adopted by government and industry.

Quite frankly, it appears the privatisation train left the platform some time ago and there is no way to halt or divert it in order to genuinely benefit household consumers.

Still feel unhappy with the Turnbull Government's policies on underground, land surface and marine waters? So you should


“Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by "excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water.” [US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]

Every Northern Hemisphere Spring this dead zone occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and increases in size over time.



It is only one of more than 400 hypoxic areas world-wide which were mapped in 2008.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Andrew H. Altieri et al, 2017, Tropical dead zones and mass mortalities on coral reefs:

Oxygen-starved coastal waters are rapidly increasing in prevalence worldwide. However, little is known about the impacts of these “dead zones” in tropical ecosystems or their potential threat to coral reefs. We document the deleterious effects of such an anoxic event on coral habitat and biodiversity, and show that the risk of dead-zone events to reefs worldwide likely has been seriously underestimated. Awareness of, and research on, reef hypoxia is needed to address the threat posed by dead zones to coral reefs.

Degradation of coastal water quality in the form of low dissolved oxygen levels (hypoxia) can harm biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human wellbeing. Extreme hypoxic conditions along the coast, leading to what are often referred to as “dead zones,” are known primarily from temperate regions. However, little is known about the potential threat of hypoxia in the tropics, even though the known risk factors, including eutrophication and elevated temperatures, are common. Here we document an unprecedented hypoxic event on the Caribbean coast of Panama and assess the risk of dead zones to coral reefs worldwide. The event caused coral bleaching and massive mortality of corals and other reef-associated organisms, but observed shifts in community structure combined with laboratory experiments revealed that not all coral species are equally sensitive to hypoxia. Analyses of global databases showed that coral reefs are associated with more than half of the known tropical dead zones worldwide, with >10% of all coral reefs at elevated risk for hypoxia based on local and global risk factors. Hypoxic events in the tropics and associated mortality events have likely been underreported, perhaps by an order of magnitude, because of the lack of local scientific capacity for their detection. Monitoring and management plans for coral reef resilience should incorporate the growing threat of coastal hypoxia and include support for increased detection and research capacity.

Anyone still in favour of allowing an expansion of coal mining in the Galilee Basin, Queensland?

Anyone still comfortable with the amount of agricultural/industrial run-off into the Great Barrier Reef, marine protected areas and Australian coastal waters, which is allowed under state and federal policies?

It’s not just our rivers and aquifers which are suffering from political inaction and vested interest greed.

BACKGROUND

The Australian Government’s OzCoasts website states:

A reduction in dissolved oxygen concentrations is amongst the most important effects of eutrophication on aquatic organisms [4]. Hypoxia can cause direct mortality, reduced growth rates and altered behaviour and distributions of fish [4] and other organisms. In addition, bottom-water hypoxia can interact with elevated water temperatures at the surface to produce a "temperature-oxygen squeeze" effect, which can greatly reduce the amount of summer habitat available for some species [12]. Eggs and larvae of fish (and crustaceans) may be particularly susceptible to this effect because these life history stages are less able to avoid unfavourable conditions, and because they live in near shore areas, such as estuaries, where too-high water temperatures and too-low oxygen conditions often occur [5]. Changes in fish assemblages and crustaceans in response to hypoxia and & anoxia can render these organisms more susceptible to fishing pressure, and can increase the abundance of non-targeted species in by-catch [4].

Dissolved oxygen status also influences the uptake or release of nutrients from sediment. When oxygen is depleted, the nitrification pathway is blocked, and efficiencies may be lowered. As a consequence, more nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorous) are released from the sediment in bio-available forms [7]. These nutrients help to sustain algal blooms, and therefore continue the supply organic matter to the sediments [7]. With organic matter (energy) diverted from invertebrate consumption to microbial decomposition, the natural pattern of energy flow is altered, and pelagic and opportunistic species are favoured [8]. Indeed, an increased ratio of planktivore:demersal fish biomass is an important effect of eutrophication [11]. Low bottom water oxygen concentrations are also conducive to the build-up of toxic compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gas, which can also be harmful to benthic organisms and fish. Even short-lived anoxic events can cause the mass mortality of fish and benthic organisms [10].

Overall, anoxic and hypoxic events can cause large reductions in the abundance, diversity and harvest of fish in affected waters [4], and can contribute to an overall loss of bio-diversity[9]. However, the extent to which bottom water anoxia causes declines in overall fish production depends on a balanced between the negative and positive and effects of eutrophication in the full spectrum of habitats within the system [4]……

Major research institutions, universities and government (local and State) agencies gather oxygen data for specific research studies. Some information on anoxic and hypoxic events in Australian coastal waterways was compiled during the National Land & Water Resources Audit. In most cases, no data was available. However, localised or short-lived periods of hypoxia were reported in the Derwent and Huon estuaries (TAS) and in the Tuggerah Lakes (NSW). Prolonged and extensive anoxia is experienced in the Gippsland Lakes.

Note:

Anoxia is an extreme form of hypoxia.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The American Resistance has many faces and this is just one of them (13)



"Which Bank?" Allegations of est. 1,610 suspect financial transactions possibly involving money laundering or terrorism funding


Calls for a royal commission into banks and banking practices will probably grow louder.......
ABC News, 3 August 2017:
The Australian Transactions Reports & Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) today launched civil proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that the Commonwealth Bank failed to comply with the law on 53,700 occasions.
The allegations follow an AUSTRAC investigation into the CBA's use of intelligent deposit machines (IDMs) between November 2012 and September 2015.
The maximum penalty for each of the 53,700 contraventions is up to $18 million.
The potentially massive penalties would dwarf a $45-million fine imposed on Tabcorp earlier this year for failing to comply with anti money laundering and terror financing laws…..
The transactions in question had a total value of around $624.7 million.
ABC News, 7 August 2017:
The Commonwealth's allegations about the extent of the breakdown of CBA's legal obligations are breathtaking.
Reading between the lines in the statement of claim, it would appear Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigating at least four money-laundering syndicates discovered Austrac had no transaction records on those they had under surveillance.
In August 2015, CBA provided authorities with details on two of those missing transactions. Clearly, that caused panic within the bank. For just a month later, it sent Austrac details of a further 53,504 transactions dating back three years where $10,000 or more had taken place.
At least 1,604 of those late filings related to criminal gangs. Even more alarming, a further six filings related to five customers the bank itself had identified as posing a terrorism risk. But, incredibly, it didn't report them.
That is not the end of it. According to the statement of claim, the bank continued to facilitate transactions for drug syndicates even after being alerted by the AFP.
Even as late as January this year, 18 months after the breaches were first discovered, it is accused of failing to report suspicious transfers totalling $320,000 over five days.
The calamity is being sheeted home to the installation of whiz-bang new machines, intelligent deposit machines.
These accept cash or shares, count the money and then deposit it into a CBA account. From there, it can be sent almost instantly to anywhere in the world. And the neat thing, from a criminal or terrorist viewpoint, is that you do not have to be a CBA customer to do it.
Not only that, they would take up to $20,000 at a time. The machines may be intelligent but, sadly, no-one at the bank seemed to give a second thought to the reporting duties, either around the $10,000 limit or to look out for "structured" transactions — those attempting to fly just under the radar with slightly smaller amounts.
When they were first introduced in 2012, they proved popular. Almost $90 million went through in the first six months. That has since risen to around $1 billion a month.
As the debacle unfolded last week, the other banks — all of which have introduced similar machines — were keen to distance themselves from the drama, even if ANZ boss Shayne Elliott lamented that all would suffer.
Each said they had removed "non-compliant machines", whatever that means. For it is not the machines that are at fault. It is the oversight that has failed.
Interestingly, each of the CBA's three main rivals were keen to emphasise that their machines would accept a maximum of $5,000. In effect, that means no single transaction would ever come close to the reporting limit, thereby letting them off the hook……
The odds on a royal commission have now shortened dramatically, for the Turnbull Government's resolve to resist one must now be spent.
Not only that, the banks have lost any moral ground they may have thought they had in opposing the Federal Government levy.
If recent history is anything to go by, the bank and its leaders merely will attempt to pretend it is all a media beat-up and it is business as usual.
There will be the usual contrite statements, the promises of improving systems to ensure there is no repeat, an internal inquiry no less, most likely as early as this week when Mr Narev unveils a $9.8 billion profit.
This time, however, the attack will not be so simply to parry. It is not an angry but disorganised customer base baying for blood. These are issues of national security and the prospect of a concerted legal assault by the Australian Government solicitor.
Hold the bonuses? The fallout is likely to be somewhat larger.
Commonwealth Bank, ASX announcement, 4 August 2017:

Commonwealth Bank response to media reports regarding AUSTRAC civil proceedings

Friday, 4 August 2017 (Sydney):

Commonwealth Bank of Australia notes the media coverage of the civil penalty proceedings initiated yesterday by AUSTRAC for alleged non-compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Finance Act 2006. The matter is subject to court proceedings. We are currently reviewing AUSTRAC’s claim and will file a statement of defence. We will keep the market informed of any updates in compliance with our disclosure obligations.

This Turnbull Government minister thinks voters won't realise this is not an exercise in truth telling.....


This is almost embarrassing to watch.