Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Political Expediency Pollutes CPRS

Kevin Rudd's CPRS - Carbon Pollution reduction Scheme - was to be one of his great environmental stamps. It was to involve a carbon cap-and-trade system; higher electricity prices, which would encourage more consumers to use renewable energy; some compensation for high energy use industries; and an environmental halo for Mr Rudd.

It was beset by difficulties:
  1. The Greens thought it didn't set sufficient targets for the reduction in carbon pollution
  2. The Copenhagen Conference on climate change achieved little, as many predicted, and countries have not committed to any reduction in carbon emissions
  3. The Coalition - Liberal and National Parties - are running a policy of denying climate change, protecting the short-term interests of big business. They, and the Greens, defeated teh CPRS Bill in the Senate, biut for the different reasons outlined above.
The NSW, and other states, electricity price regulator, approved large price rises for electricity. In NSW there were 2 reasons for this: preparation for the carbon trading scheme, and the desire of the NSW Labor government to privatise electricity generation and sale, for its own short-term political reasons.

Voter backlash against the price rises, and manipulation of that anger by teh Coalition parties before this year's election have led to Prime Minister Rudd shelving the CPRS until at least 2012.

The shelving has nothing to do with the merits, or otherwise, of the CPRS. It has everything to do with political expediency.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Corrupt Storm

For several days now, the media has regaled us with the sordid details of corruption at the Melbourne Storm Rugby League club. The corruption involved 2 sets of accounting books; one "official" set, kept with player contracts. A second set, hidden in a separate storage, apparently documents extra payments to some players at $15 000 a time. Today's news also gives some details of letters of offer (of off-the-book payments) to at least 3 players. The corruption involved at least some senior managers, probably the players to whom letters were written, 1 or more sponsors. The NRL has imposed very tough penalties: stripped of Minor Premierships, Premierships (Grand Final wins), return of $1.1m in winnings and $500 000 fine, loss of all points for 2010, and unable to gain any competition points in 2010.

The corruption allowed the club to keep more players, with more talent, so that they gained an unfair advantage over other clubs. It is devastating for those not involved, and it would be appropriate for them to stand up and say that they do not want corrupt officials, staff, players at the club - they should help root out the evil infecting their club.

For more than 10 years, ever since its inception, Melbourne Storm has lost money; losses that have had to be made up by grants from the NRL, and from its owner, News Ltd. News Ltd has been trying to sell the club for some years. It might now not be able to sell the losing concern.

While forensic accountants have been called in by News Ltd, and some matters referred to police, there is more that must be done. The NRL must investigate:
  • players to whom letters were sent, offering the corrupt payments. If shown to be true to the NRL's satisfaction, these players must have their NRL contracts withdrawn, and be suspended from any professional league for at least 12 months.
  • the involvement of club executives, and other staff, including coaching and related team staff. As with players, anyone involved should be banned from working in any NRL-related capacity for some time.
  • The apparent insider trading on betting. At least 1 $50 000 bet on Storm getting the wooden spoon (coming last) was made hours before the announcement that they would get no points in 2010 and come last. What relationship does the bettor have with the NRL, the Melbourne Storm, or any other club, or club executives?
Other clubs, and other sports, will be examining, or re-examining, their behaviours. That is a good thing. Corruption in any form is insidious. It, and its perpetrators, must be weeded out.

For the record, I do not support any NRL team; I prefer Super Rugby.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beauty Madness for 9YO Girls

Today's Sunday tabloids carry the story of 9 year-old girls having regular hair removal & waxing at beauty salons. There's no law against this - the child enters the salon, with or without a parent, the salon takes the money. Done deal.

The questions spring to mind.
  • Do 9yo girls need waxing/hair removal? The occurrence of excessive body hair mostly occurs after puberty. Most 9 yo girls have not yet reached puberty.
  • Why would parent(s) allow removal of non-excessive hair in a pre-pubescent girl? Social engineering of parents (" 'everybody' at school is having it, mum"), or parents providing money, but not knowing how their daughters are spending it.
  • Do "tween" magazines/websites promote hair removal as 'beauty'?
  • How many 9yo girls have the cognitive maturity to make a rational decision about the process? Psychologically, not many at all.
  • What ethics are shown by salons that do this to 9 yo girls?
It seems to me that there would be very few young girls who would need this medically. It is pandering, or the effect of undue influence by others. Industry (beauty, and the tween-targeting publishers) must exert more energy in ethical behaviours. Parents must remember that it is OK, even good, to say "No, that's not appropriate at your age".

Madness, sheer, bloody madness!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hospital Reform Driven Wrongly

According to a number of polls, most Australians support the Federal Government in its efforts to improve public hospitals. They support the concept of the Federal Government funding hospitals more directly. Prime Minister Rudd's offer is to withhold 30% of GST revenue from the states and use it, and other federal money, to more directly fund 60% of hospitals' costs.

A number of states, driven by Victorian Premier, John Brumby, have proposed a model of 50-50 funding. That's 50% from the Federal Government, 50% from the states. The Federal Government does not, under his plan, keep any of the GST money to fund hospitals, AND the states would receive the "bucket of money" for hospitals - well States' Treasuries would get the money! I think this has been much of the problem - states use too much of the money on bureaucracies to "manage" the public hospital system. Kevin Rudd's model of direct funding of more local hospital networks avoids some of the bureaucracies, and should give better value.

With state resistance building, Kevin Rudd has added a sweetener - $500 Million, over 4 years to cut hospital waiting times. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has told the media that about one in three patients wait for more than eight hours in emergency wards for treatment. The "plan" is to cut that to less than 4 hours. Of the $500 M on offer, $150 M is on offer from 1 July this year. The sting is that hospitals have to cut the waiting time in ED's in half, BEFORE they get the extra $350 M! Yet in order to reduce waiting times, public hospitals need: more ED doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds (which require more nurses). With about 760 public hospitals throughout Australia, that $150 M represents about $200 000 per hospital, or perhaps 3 nurses for 1 year. That's just 1 extra nurse per shift.

The concept of more money for more "efficient" hospitals is NOT a suitable model of funding for something as important as health. Yes, hospitals need to improve, but to deny funding to a hospital because a political target is not met, is not appropriate.