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JENNIFER DOGGETT. Seven Key messages in Health.


This week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released its Health expenditure Australia 2014–15 report.

This document contains a wealth of information about the way in which we allocate resources across our health system.

There are many interesting stories in this data which can help us understand how our health system works and what we can do to improve it.

Continue reading

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ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS. Compulsory Third Party insurance in NSW- a Bad System about to Get Worse?


CTP, Compulsory Third Party insurance (Green Slips) in NSW are looking increasingly like a scam. In theory, if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident that is not your fault, all ‘reasonable and necessary’ treatment is currently paid for by your insurer. People might assume this means good, standard medical practice. This is not so.

In principle, patients are entitled to immediate and early treatment but the first problem is that insurers have up to 3 months to decide if they are liable for the accident. Payment can be delayed until the liability is accepted. Sometimes when two cars collide both insurers decide that the other is liable, and neither will pay. This is quite common. Continue reading

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DOUGLAS NEWTON. The Slide to World War I. Shades of 1914 today?


Are there shades of 1914 in today’s international collisions? So much is different. Talk of ‘parallels’ is probably overstatement. But there are disturbing continuities.

The setting in 1914

In 1914, the ‘Hobbesian’ fatalists who believe that nation states are always natural enemies, and that warfare is more or less inevitable, held sway in many nations.

The megafauna in the jungle of vested interests, that is, the ‘defence’ industries and their bankers, were extremely powerful. They funded the lobby groups, the ‘think-tanks’ of the pre-1914 world, the army leagues, navy leagues, universal service leagues, and so on. These were filled with sombre-faced ‘realists’, shunning ‘sentimentalism’, briefing journalists about the challenge of ‘inescapable geo-strategic realities’ to be met with ever more arms spending.

Most decision-makers knelt before the great God Deterrence. Supposedly, only superior armed force could guarantee peace. Continue reading

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RICHARD BUTLER. Putin is different.


A special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, just published, focuses on the deteriorating US-Russia relationship. It poses the question of whether a new Cold War has started and publishes a range of relevant, articles.

The article by Fiona Hill, Director of the Center for the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution is impressive (, volume 72, issue 3). It discusses Vladimir Putin’s origins, nature, what he has become, the nature of the state he runs, and most importantly how he views the US and other western countries.

Having traced Putin’s political origins in the St Petersburg government and the KGB, she defines him as “the operative as autocrat”, asserting that he is “without precedent either in Russian history, or at the top of a modern state anywhere in the world”. Continue reading

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JENNY HOCKING. The Palace Letters.

Release ‘the Palace letters’! Why I am taking a Federal Court action against the National Archives to release correspondence between Sir John Kerr and the Queen.

When the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, took the unprecedented and divisive action of dismissing the Whitlam government, he claimed to have acted alone, to have ‘made up my mind on my own part’. In this solo performance, as insistently and repeatedly presented by Kerr, he at no stage raised even the possibility of Whitlam’s dismissal with the Queen. By ensuring her ignorance, Kerr claimed, he had ‘protected the Queen from getting involved’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading

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ROBERT MANNE. How we came to be so cruel to asylum seekers.

This is an edited extract of a talk delivered to the Integrity 20 Conference at Griffith University on October 25, 2016

If you had been told 30 years ago that Australia would create the least asylum seeker friendly institutional arrangements in the world, you would not have been believed.

In 1992 we introduced a system of indefinite mandatory detention for asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Since that time, we have accepted the idea that certain categories of refugees and asylum seekers can be imprisoned indefinitely; that those who are intercepted by our navy should be forcibly returned to the point of departure; that those who haven’t been able to be forcibly returned should be imprisoned indefinitely on remote Pacific Islands; and that those marooned on these island camps should never be allowed to settle in Australia even after several years.

How then has this come to pass? There are two main ways of explaining this. Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. Critique of Government’s attacks on civil society.


UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’
Scathing Critique of Government’s Attacks on Civil Society 

In 1998, after 14 years of haggling, the UN General Assembly finally adopted the landmark UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. After another 10 years of thinking about it, the Australian government agreed to sign on to the Declaration.

The Declaration’s purpose is to promote the work of individuals and civil society organisations which act to protect people’s fundamental human rights and to ensure that in doing so, they themselves do not become the subject of human rights violations.

In signing on, the Australian government agreed to issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, an independent expert appointed pursuant to the Declaration, to visit Australia. The Rapporteur’s role would be to evaluate the Commonwealth and State governments’ record in meeting the standards of protection the Declaration sets down. Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. The slide to war with Russia.

‘God created war so Americans could learn geography’ (1)

On 3 October, taking another step on the road to a new cold war, Russia suspended the 16-year bilateral plutonium disposition agreement with the US. Are the two countries sleepwalking into a war that could cross the nuclear threshold – remembering that those sleepwalking are unaware of it at the time?

One possible pathway to slide into war would be to act on the growing chorus of calls in the Washington beltway for a no-fly-zone over Syria. In a bon mot often misattributed to Mark Twain that is so good it deserves to be true, God is said to have created war so Americans could learn geography. Russia–US tensions are rising again and could boil over if Hillary Clinton becomes president, which seems all but certain.

The threat of war comes less from Russian revanchist or imperial ambitions and more from the US insistence that no other power must have the economic resilience and military capability to resist Washington’s will, anywhere. Rooted in the triumphalism of US supremacy in the post-Cold War unipolar moment, this is both unsustainable and increasingly risky as US primacy wanes against the steady accretion of economic, military and diplomatic power by China and Russia’s recovery. The fierce US resistance of the inexorable tide of history also spells dangers for Australia. Continue reading

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RICHARD BUTLER. Russia and the US Elections


The US elections campaign has set-up a deeply negative framework for the future management of US/Russia relations. If Hillary Clinton is President her past attraction to military solutions to foreign policy problems will need revision, if conflict is to be avoided.

Speaking at the Alfred Smith dinner, in New York, on October 20th, Hillary Clinton referred to a difficulty Donald Trump had apparently encountered in his use of a teleprompter, during a campaign event. She said to Trump:

“They’re hard to keep up with, and I’m sure it’s even harder when you’re translating from the original Russian”. The audience was, largely, amused.

This wasn’t merely a joke. It reflected her assessment that there was domestic political mileage in hostility towards Russia and Putin and harm to be done to her opponent by calling attention to, and misrepresenting his stated preference for trying to get on with Russia, rather than fight it. Another Clinton aside illustrated further her assessment of the “Russia card”: “We all know who Putin wants to win, and it’s not me”. Continue reading

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JOSEPH CAMILLERI. The election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world.

In a long and often exasperating presidential campaign, Americans and the world have been subjected to Donald Trump’s odious and often incoherent rhetoric, and from both sides much vitriol and endless accusations of deceit, crookedness and sexual misconduct.

In this largely policy-free contest, Hillary Clinton’s approach to the immense challenges facing the United States has escaped serious scrutiny. Yet, how America views its place in a rapidly transforming world has far-reaching implications not only for security at home and abroad, but for the economy, financial markets, the environment and much else. Continue reading

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