Showing posts with label privatisation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label privatisation. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Shorter Residential Aged Care Industry Message in 2020: If you personally pay us more we will treat you better

"If we expect people to pay more [in the future], we have to deliver much better care" [Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2020]

ABC News, 9 February 2020:

Sydney's streets were thick with smoke as the blazes took hold on December 5 last year. 

That may explain why few noticed or cared about the final sitting day in Canberra.

But what happened in the Senate that day shows just how strong the ties that bind the aged care lobby and government really are.

At 9.30 that day, some crucial amendments to aged care legislation were introduced which would force nursing home to reveal how they spent their $20 billion of taxpayer funds each year — specifically, how much went to staff, food and "the amounts paid out to parent bodies".

Unlike hospital and child care centres, aged care facilities can employ as few staff as they like because there are no staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes.

When it comes to food, a study of 800 nursing homes shows the average spend is just $6 a day.

The Senate vote was taking place just five weeks after 
the scathing interim report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Among its findings of a "sad and shocking" system which was 
"inhumane, abusive and unjustified", the commissioners also commented on the lack of transparency in aged care, with the numbers of complaints, assaults and staff numbers all kept secret from the public.

"My amendments are all about transparency and accountability — 
and, boy, do we need more of this," said Senator Stirling Griff from Centre Alliance, who proposed the amendments.

When the crucial vote came, Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie supported it. But the Government voted against it and, with the help of Pauline Hanson, the reform was defeated.

It might seem an odd choice for Pauline Hanson, who has previously rallied against the aged care sector for "rorting and malpractice", but it shouldn't be surprising that the Government voted it down.

The influence of lobbyists

The aged care industry has been successfully lobbying governments for years. The influence of the industry through government committees, think tanks and policies is well known and is being rightly questioned at the royal commission.

For example, when the Queensland Government proposed laws requiring nursing homes to publish their staff numbers last year, the federal Department of Health sent a six-page document arguing against it, saying it might "confuse or mislead" families and "appears to create a reporting burden on providers with no clear benefits to consumers".

If you think the Federal Government's objections sound a lot like those of the aged care lobby, you wouldn't be wrong.

In fact, the industry group Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) argued in its own submission that few families would be interested in accessing a website with such information and that the numbers could be used "to push a particular medically based care model (which may be contrary to the preferences of residents)".

That's an argument LASA has been using for years. It's code for arguing against more registered nurses for fear it spoils the "home-like" atmosphere of an aged care facility.

Others might argue that the hundreds of stories told to the royal commission of poor wound care, misdiagnosis and failure to send sick residents to hospital may have something to do with that lack of a "medical model".

Currently there's no requirement, except in Victorian state run facilities, for an RN to be employed at a nursing home.

The aged care lobby doesn't want that to become a national trend.

Why can't we know how many staff there are?'

The industry and Federal Government's opposition to the argument against making the staff numbers public didn't wash with the Queensland Government.

"We report the number of teachers to students in classes, educators to children in child care, why the hell can't we know how many staff there are in aged care facilities?," said Queensland Health Minister Stephen Mills, who successfully passed the legislation and says he will "name and shame" nursing homes which refuse to make staff numbers public.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will argue that the Government voted against the federal moves for financial transparency because it doesn't want to introduce any major reforms before the final report from the royal commission.

However, that excuse didn't stop the Federal Government from its massive reform of putting the publicly funded Aged Care Assessment system out to tender last year.

The move to privatise it was widely denounced by state ministers (including from the NSW Liberal Government), advocates and the medical profession.

But the aged care lobby groups are big supporters of the change…...

Read the full article here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2020:

...the federal Health Department revealed it was yet to implement key recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's 2017 report on elder abuse. 

Responding to a question taken on notice at a Senate estimates hearing, Health Department bureaucrats this week said a "scoping study" was being done on a register of aged care workers, while "preparatory work" was under way on a serious incident response scheme for assaults in care. 

Labor's aged care spokeswoman, Julie Collins, said older Australians at risk of abuse deserved "immediate action, not years of inaction and delays". 

Official data shows there were 5233 assaults in residential aged care facilities in 2018-19. 

Catholic Health Australia outlined its proposed new means-testing rules in a pre-budget submission to the federal government.

There is a question begging to be answered here. 

If Scott Morrison and his Lib-Nats cronies go down the path of attempting to permanenltly conceal what amounts to institutionalised elder abuse, allows residential aged care providers to further entrench differing levels of care based on an ability of the frail aged to pay and goes ahead with further aged care services privatisation in order to avoid accountability - has Morrison himself calculated just how many elderly Australians will be likely to commit suicide soon after being told they will be entering residential aged care?

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Australian Politics 2018: This Federal Government Can’t Do Anything Right

Reared with a sense of righteous self-importance, fed on a diet of IPA ideology with a side dish of entitlement, brought to Canberra by the Old Boy’s Network, then fattened into self-complacency by the political perks of office, this particular Coalition Government (which took the reins of government in 2013 and kept them in 2016) was always a puny failure.

Faced on a daily basis with its own failings this clueless federal government scrabbled about for years before turning bitter, vindictive and intent on destruction.

Here is yet another example of the Morrison Government’s inability to do more than spin its wheels…..

Financial Review, 26 October 2018:

Federal energy minister Angus Taylor's roundtable aimed at forcing big energy companies to lower their standing offers for retail power by January 1 is under a cloud because of real fears this could amount to an illegal cartel.

Energy industry sources say the legal risks of breaching cartel laws - jail terms and massive fines for individual executives - are too great for them to risk at a roundtable at which issues of pricing will be hanging in the air even if not explicitly discussed.

Mr Taylor dismissed suggestions that the round table could breach competition laws.

"Of course we're not going to breach the Australian laws; we don't do that," he told reporters after the COAG Energy Council meeting in Sydney.

But he signalled that all the invited retailers may not attend the round table, at which the government would outline its policies and expectations that the sector will deliver price cuts for consumers.

"We're looking forward to as many electricity providers coming to the round table as want to come along," Mr Taylor said.

The energy companies' fears of breaching the cartel laws are heightened because they have been under permanent surveillance on pricing by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for the last 18 months and the government recently extended that monitoring until 2025.

As well, cartel laws have been widened to include so called "signalling" and other forms of tacit agreement falling short of explicit price fixing agreements during the last decade because offences were too difficult to prove in court under the previous, much stricter definition.

Mr Taylor wrote to energy companies on Tuesday inviting them to a "roundtable" to discuss the reductions in their standing offers they will be required to make for January 1, 2019 - before the July 1 scrapping of standing offers which are to be replaced by the "default" tariff to be set by the Australian Energy Regulator by April 30.

 Read the full article here.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Morrison Government is making sure that Centrelink clients' worst nightmares are coming true

The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 2018:

Labour hire workers will soon be used in face-to-face roles in Centrelink offices across the country, as part of a six-month trial.

Thirty labour hire workers will be used in some Centrelink offices in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia in what is believed to be self-managed support advisor roles from next month. This person generally greets people as they enter Centrelink offices and often directs them to using computers and phones in the offices.

The move is another step in increasing use of labour hire at the agency, following on from the announcement that 1500 call centre roles would be outsourced to Serco, Stellar Asia Pacific, Concentrix Services and DataCom Connect.

It had also previously been announced that 1000 staff from labour hire firms would be deployed at Centrelink offices around the country, and a pilot program with Serco with 250 call centre staff means 2750 contractors have been hired since last year to work at the agency. It's believed the trial is part of existing labour hire contracts Human Services has with private companies.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the 30 staff members were additional staff.

"There are no job losses associated with the move," the spokeswoman said.
The main public sector union is worried that members of the public will be dealing with staff members who aren't employed by the government.

"The CPSU is seriously concerned that labour hire workers will now be the first port of call for customers walking into a Centrelink office, instead of permanent members of staff. We want Australians to be served by experienced and properly trained staff members," Community and Public Sector Union deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

"The job might sound easy but dealing with clients who may be agitated or distressed as they walk into an office can be very difficult, and could pose a risk to the safety of the workers."

It's not yet clear how workloads will be managed in a role that was previously shared among Centrelink staff throughout a shift.

“Experienced Centrelink staff are able to manage that, but it’s going to be much harder for labour hire workers who don’t have the same experience or background. 

This is bad news for those workers and bad news for members of the community who are trying to access services," Ms Donnelly said.


* Private prison operator Serco has a disreptuable history in Australia and overseas.
See: &

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Once more a Coalition federal government is promising savings on household electricity bills

“Throughout the 1980s, '90s, and most of the 2000s, electricity prices tracked fairly closely to general consumer price trends. In the past decade, however, electricity has shot off the charts. Since 2008 power prices have risen 117 per cent, more than four times the average price increase across sectors.” [ABC News, 18 July  2018]

All three major NSW political parties - Liberal, Nationals and Labor - along with their federal counterparts drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the alleged desirability of privatising state assets in the electricity and gas sectors of energy supply.

Here is a brief outline of the how and why...... 


"The completion of this first tranche of the energy reform process meets the government's objectives – we have exited electricity retailing, we have created a competitive market structure approved by the ACCC and we have received a strong financial return for the taxpayers of NSW,” he [NSW Treasurer] said…..

Earlier, the shadow treasurer, Mike Baird, said: "Whatever they finally announce, it is clear from the ongoing speculation that the receipts will be at the lower end of the $5 billion to $7 billion range, which is about half what these assets are worth – and that is before you take off the $2.3 billion in inducements for the new coalmine needed to get the deal away.

'The end result is billions of dollars lost forever."

A UBS analyst, David Leitch, said: "NSW households are in for higher electricity tariffs and more people at their front door, trying to get them to change electricity supplier."


"When this bill is passed, this Government estimates that power prices will go down by 9 per cent, gas prices will go down by 7 per cent, and that means that the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower," Mr Abbott said on October 15.

JUNE 2014

As of 12 May 2017, two government assets have been privatised in 2017. The most recent privatisation is the 99-year lease of a 50.4% share of Endeavour Energy. On 11 May 2017, the NSW [Berejiklian Coalition] Government announced that a consortium led by Macquarie Group's infrastructure arm had been successful in securing the tender for a price of $7.6 billion. Along with Ausgrid and Transgrid, the lease of Endeavour Energy represents the final of the three “poles and wires” sales – a key policy of the Liberal/National government in the 2015 State election. Announcing the sale, NSW Treasury stated:

The NSW Government will retain a 49.6 per cent interest in Endeavour Energy and will have ongoing influence over operations as lessor, licensor and as safety and reliability regulator.

June 2017

Electricity is now management heavy with a blow out in the number of managers relative to other workers. In addition electricity now employs an army of sales and marketing and other workers who do not actually make electricity. In addition the reforms seemed to encourage profit gauging on the part of companies in the industry who are able to inflate the asset base used in calculating the permitted return on assets. More than half the asset base appears to be ‘goodwill’ and retained earnings. There is a weird circular process in which high rates of return are capitalised in ‘goodwill’ and other fictitious or notional items while high profits guarantee high retained earnings which also feed into the asset base. In that way the unproductive capital base is allowed to increase and we are charged for capital that has no real function in producing electricity….

A host of factors have been blamed for the increase in electricity prices relative to other prices but we would point out that the main departure from the rest of the price index happened post privatisation and corporatisation.

JULY 2017

Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL have all announced price increases for electricity and gas starting from July 1….

In NSW, residential EnergyAustralia customers will see electricity prices increase by up to 19.6 per cent. Origin Energy customers will get a 16.1 per cent rise.


The key supply chain cost components examined in the report include wholesale electricity purchase costs, regulated network costs and environmental policy costs.
Annual electricity prices for the representative consumer on a market offer in New South Wales:

* increased by 10.2 per cent from 2016-17 to 2017-18 due to higher wholesale electricity costs, driven by the retirement of Northern and Hazelwood generators and increasing gas prices

* are expected to decrease by an annual average of 6.6 per cent in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The expected decreases are largely attributable to decreases in wholesale electricity costs driven by expected new generation (approximately 4,100 MW across the NEM) and the return to service of the Swanbank E generator (385 MW in Queensland). In addition, in NSW, regulated network costs are uncertain in the two years to June 2020 due to the AER being required to remake revenue determinations for the NSW distribution network providers for the 2014-19 regulatory control period.


The most significant price rises were electricity, up 12.4 per cent, fuel up 10.4 per cent, domestic holiday travel up 6.3 per cent and fruit up 9.3 per cent. 

Across New South Wales, we found theaverage annual electricity bill to be just over $1,667. However, we found that bill-payers aged in their 40s reported the highest average bills in NSW at $1,911.76. Those aged 70 or over reported the lowest average bills at $1,466.40.

JULY 2018

This was comprised of $120 due to the [national energy] guarantee and $280 due to new investment in renewable energy that was already planned, mainly because of the Renewable Energy Target, which will run to 2030….

The ESB [Energy Security Board**] proposal increases the annual average saving to $550 on 2018 prices, of which $150 is due to the guarantee and $400 due to renewable energy.


After reading the National Energy Guarantee Consultation Paper as well as the 1 August 2018 Final Detailed Design and listening to statements made by the Turnbull Government, I personally find it hard to believe this change in federal government policy will significantly limit the rate of increases to household energy costs over time when this is based on an assumption that the market will respond by lowering prices across the Australian wholesale and retail sectors of energy supply.

Talk of money 'saved' by households is illusory as It will certainly see no reduction in the actual amounts listed on 2019-20 household electricity and gas bills once this guarantee comes into effect.

*KPMG Economics, November 2017, NEG and Electricity Pricing

Network charges represent on average about half of the electricity supply chain costs, with generation and retail costs (combined into the ‘competitive market’ category) accounting for 42%, and environment policies adding the remaining 8%, based on the latest AEMC Electricity Price Trend report.

The make up of the total average retail cost is shown in Chart 6 which reveals the single largest component of the price of electricity is distribution costs, which represented about 40% of the average cost of electricity. Over the AEMC forecast period to 2018/19, these costs are still expected to represent by far the largest component of the electricity cost stack, albeit fractionally lower in a couple of years’ time.

The next largest component is the wholesale price of electricity, which in 2015/16 represented about 28%. Under the AEMC Base Case scenario – which includes the retirement of the brown coal fired Hazelwood Power station in Victoria – this cost component had been anticipated to rise steadily over the forecast period to represent about 30% of the cost of electricity by 2018/19.

As shown in Chart 7 below, these three jurisdictions experienced higher than anticipated wholesale electricity costs in the order of between 30% and 80% when compared to original forecasts for FY2016/17. When considered on a weighted average basis, using the same methodology applied by the AEMC to estimate the values for the National Summary, wholesale electricity costs have therefore been about 17% to 20% higher than anticipated.
This increase in wholesale electricity costs pushed the bundled cost of electricity to rise by about 5% higher than anticipated by the AEMC, and shifted the relative importance of wholesale prices in the cost stack from about 28% to 31%.

Formed out of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (the Finkel Review), the Energy Security Board comprises an independent chair and deputy chair along with the expert heads of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The current Board membership is Chair Dr Kerry Schott AO,  Deputy Chair Clare Savage, Australian Energy Market Commission Chair John Pierce, Australian Energy Market Operator Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman, and the Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator Paula Conboy.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Hands off! The ABC pays its own way, says ABC boss

ABC boss Michelle Guthrie has dramatically hit back at the Liberal Party over its call to privatise the public broadcaster, vowing the ABC will not be a "punching bag" for political and vested interests, and labelling the attacks as cynical, misplaced and ignorant.

In a provocative speech intended to "call out" the ABC's critics, Ms Guthrie also presented new data showing the broadcaster generates as much annual economic activity as it receives from taxpayers.

And she declared the public views the ABC as a "priceless asset" that should not be sold, no matter how much a commercial buyer might be prepared to fork out.

"[Australians] regard the ABC as one of the great national institutions [and] deeply resent it being used as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests", Ms Guthrie said.

"Inherent in the drive against the independent public broadcaster is a belief that it can be pushed and prodded into different shapes to suit the prevailing climate. It can't. Nor should it be."

Ms Guthrie said she wanted to respond specifically to the motion passed by the Liberal Party federal council at the weekend calling for the ABC to be sold off, "even if others are keen to downplay it".

ABC Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, speech at the Melbourne Press Club, 19 June 2018:

For those who prefer an abacus-type approach to this debate, I have some fresh information. How do you put a price on the value of the ABC? In pursuit of that answer, the ABC has commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to do some research. Their report is still being compiled and will be released next month. The early findings are interesting. They show that the ABC contributed more than $1 billion to the Australian economy in the last financial year - on a par with the public investment in the organisation.  Far from being a drain on the public purse, the audience, community and economic value stemming from ABC activity is a real and tangible benefit.....

Deloitte calculates that the ABC is helping to sustain more than 6000 full-time equivalent jobs across the economy. It means that for every 3 full-time equivalent jobs created by the ABC, there are another 2 supported in our supply chain – local artists, writers, technicians, transport workers and many more. In hard figures, the research shows that the ABC helps to sustain 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs in addition to the 4000 women and men who are directly employed by the public broadcaster.

The Turnbull Government and the Liberal Party are well aware that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) generates income and the government is a beneficiary.

The 2016-17 annual report, which like all the public broadcaster's annual reports is tabled in parliament, shows the ABC received $1.03 billion in federal government funding.

It also received $70.4 million in own-source revenue (sale goods/rendering services etc.) and recorded a total of $1.03 billion in own-source income.

In addition, that same financial year the ABC paid the Turnbull Federal Government a one-off dividend of $14 million.

But then again, the repeated funding cuts have never been about the ABC living within its means or paying its own way, 

The Liberal and Nationals only ever seem to want to privatise government agencies which return money to treasury - after all their silvertail mates are not interested in cheaply buying businesses that aren't capable of being turned into private enterprise cash cows.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

How the ABC is faring in the Australian Parliament and who won't support the public broadcaster

According to Hansard at 10.02 0n 18 June 2018 the Petitions Committee presented a number of petitions for consideration by the House of Representatives.

This was one of them:

6) Australian Broadcasting Corporation The federal government awards the Australian Broadcasting Corporation $1 billion in funding per year. It is therefore the responsibility of the ABC to represent the people and not to push an ideological agenda onto the children of our great nation nor to bully the men and women of Australia who object to said agenda. This is exactly what 2 productions of the ABC (ABC Comedy and ABC Me) have done with their recently released "Internet Song", "What its like:" and "Privilege Rap" among other examples. This behaviour is not only morally reprehensible but is also in breach of Australian broadcasting Corporation Act of 1983 which states: "to ensure that the gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is accurate and impartial according to the recognized standards of objective journalism;". We therefore ask the House to investigate the ABC for misuse of funds for the purposes of pushing an agenda and to drastically cut the ABC's funding by 90%. from 735 citizens (Petition No. EN0562)

The principal petitioner appears to be one Keiren Lincoln.

At 11.59am on the same day the Labor Member for Isaacs and Deputy Manager of Opposition Business, Mark Dreyfus by leave, moved:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Isaacs from moving the following motion immediately—that the House resolves that it will never support the privatisation of the ABC and calls on the government to reverse its latest damaging $83 million cut to the ABC.

The motion was defeated by 10 votes.

MPs who refused to protect the ABC against privatisation and their electorates

Abbott, AJ (Warringah)
Alexander, JG (Bennelong)
Andrews, KJ (Menzies)
Andrews, KL (McPherson)
Banks, J (Chisholm)
Bishop, JI (Curtin)
Broad, AJ (Malee)
Broadbent, RE (McMillian)
Buchholz, S (Wright)
Chester, D (Gippsland)
Christensen, GR (Dawson)
Ciobo, SM (Moncrieff)
Coleman, DB (Banks)
Coulton, M (Parkes)
Crewther, CJ (Dunkley)
Drum, DK (Murray)
Dutton, PC (Dickson)
Entsch, WG (Leichhardt)
Evans, TM (Brisbane)
Falinski, J (Mackellar)
Fletcher, PW (Bradfield)
Flint, NJ (Boothby)
Frydenberg, JA (Kooyong)
Gee, AR (Calare)
Gillespie, DA (Lyne)
Goodenough, IR (Moore)
Hartsuyker, L (Cowper)
Hastie, AW (Canning)
Hawke, AG (Mitchell)
Henderson, SM (Corangamite)
Hogan, KJ (Page)
Howarth, LR (Petrie)
Hunt, GA (Flinders)
Irons, SJ (Swan)
Keenan, M (Stirling)
Kelly, C (Hughes)
Laming, A (Bowman)
Landry, ML (Capricornia)
Laundy, C (Reid)
Leeser, J (Berowra)
Ley, SP (Farrer)
Littleproud, D (Maranoa)
Marino, NB (Forrest)
McCormack, MF (Riverina)
McVeigh, JJ (Groom)
Morrison, SJ (Cook)
Morton, B (Tangney)
O'Brien, LS (Wide Bay)
O'Brien, T (Fairfax)
O'Dwyer, KM (Higgins)
Pasin, A (Barker)
Pitt, KJ (Hinkler)
Porter, CC (Pearce)
Prentice, J (Ryan)
Price, ML (Durak)
Pyne, CM (Sturt)
Ramsey, RE (Grey)
Robert, SR (Fadden)
Sudmalis, AE (Gilmore)
Sukkar, MS (Deakin)
Taylor, AJ (Hume)
Tehan, DT (Wannon)
Tudge, AE (Aston)
Turnbull, MB (Wentworth)
Van Manen, AJ (Forde)
Vasta, RX (Bonner)
Wallace, AB (Fisher)
Wicks, LE (Robertson)
Wilson, RJ (O’Connor)
Wilson, TR (Goldstein)
Wood, JP (La Trobe)
Wyatt, KG (Hasluck)
Zimmerman, T (North Sydney)