Pollie Crackers

The federal government’s new health campaign to have everyone’s medical records available on-line has hit a snag or two.

The intention of the scheme, known as My Health, is admirable as it would give any treating doctor immediate access to a person’s medical records.

This won’t mean much if you are visiting your regular GP, but if you are away from home or involved in an accident or other emergency, the odds are it won’t be your family GP who is looking after you.

Timely knowledge of a medical condition or a particular medication can influence treatment and may help save a life.

The biggest issue with the proposed scheme is the security of the information.

Questions are being asked about its resistance to hacking which is a constant risk for public records.

However the original legislation also empowers My Health to release patient information to third parties such as the Police and CentreLink, and many people have strong objections to this action.

Some GPs have their own concerns and may choose not to upload patients’ information.

The objections have bitten and the government is now promising changes.

My Health appears to be a good idea but poorly communicated to the public and with uncertain cyber-safety.

Any person may “opt out” of the scheme by filling out an on-line form on the website by 15 October.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recently reported on retail electricity pricing from 2008 to 2018, with some very adverse findings including that the average price for power for residential customers rose by about 56% ABOVE the rise in other consumer prices.

How did this happen in an industry where the government was claiming that privatisation would increase competition and decrease prices?

Well, it seems the industry was smarter than the government. Does that surprise you? Economic commentators have made a number of claims about how this was done:

- power stations were sold to a single buyer, concentrating the wholesale market,

- old power stations are being closed in a manner which increases future prices,

- power companies adopted excessively high standards which enabled them to “gold plate” their networks at the consumers’ expense: it is estimated that this over-investment has added an extra $100 to $200 pa to household bills,

- when the regulator tried to discount this unnecessary expenditure, the NSW government (supposedly acting for us?) took it to court in order to keep prices high for its proposed network sales. The public lost out badly on that one.

- the government withdrew from regulatory control on the basis that “competition” would act to keep prices down: in reality the electricity companies chose not to compete with each other, and there was little the government could do about it,

- the (deliberately?) complex pricing packages on offer made it nearly impossible for the person in the street to make a meaningful comparison.

The ACCC report concluded that the national electricity market needed to be “reset.”

What government would have the willingness and the capacity to do that?

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It seems appropriate to give this week’s dedication to the excessively profitable electricity companies and their political supporters, and it’s hard to go past Midnight Oil’s 1974 rendition of “Power and the Passion” sung by Peter Garrett, that very versatile former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts.

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Electricity is not the only area where governments, particularly the NSW government, have a few problems on their hands.

The contractor for the light rail line in Sydney is suing the government there for millions, largely on the basis of allegedly inadequate tender preparation.

Water use in the Murray-Darling Basin is another crisis. Stadium replacement is another.

Transport NSW’s failing IT system is another.

The love of politicians for privatisation is coming under strong questioning of late, with many critics lining up to point out the deficiencies that are now appearing.

It seems that whilst the public service may have a bad reputation amongst much of the population, its main priority was to provide a service, not a profit, and it could be and often was better than the private alternative.

The other political favourite attracting criticism is the stripping of the public service which has resulted in the shedding of many experienced employees.

With them has gone a great deal of the corporate expertise that government used to rely upon to avoid exactly the sorts of stuff-ups which we are now increasingly seeing.

Politicians like to pretend they know it all, but do they? As the old (1605) saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Feather Duster No 3

T Lobb

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