Australian Politics 2017-04-29 15:52:00

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A government-sponsored bank won't help social housing

Just over 400,000 Australian households live in social housing, comprised mainly of public and community housing. Tenants pay on average $9,444 per year below market rents: the main reason for the lengthy queue to get into social housing - at least 10 years wait for most of Sydney.

My latest research report, Reforming Social Housing: financing and tenant autonomy, states many other issues face the sector including poor maintenance, mediocre tenant satisfaction, and many dwellings inappropriate for tenant needs. The sector is arguably financially unsustainable; gives tenants almost no choice over accommodation; and is beset with substantial inequities and poor incentives.

These problems won't be fixed by the latest proposal for a government-backed bond aggregator - effectively a government bank for social housing. An aggregator without government sponsorship could be worthwhile, but government backing brings with it many problems; particularly discouraging necessary reform of the sector.

Any government backing for the aggregator is only worthwhile if the benefit is fully passed on to housing providers. So why not give the benefit directly to social housing instead of using a costly and non-transparent intermediary? And if government-backed lending is good for social housing, why not do it for schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure more broadly?

Governments should instead pursue other reforms. Funding to state governments for public housing should be replaced by funding direct to tenants, while the remaining funding should strongly encourage other state reforms.

These reforms include allowing new social housing tenants to choose accommodation; differentiating rent by dwelling quality; ensuring policies treat public and community housing similarly; and transferring public housing to the community sector.

States should also have incentives to remove restrictive planning laws that cause housing unaffordability and increased social housing costs.

Such reforms offer more value than a government-sponsored bond aggregator, by giving tenants much more autonomy over their lives, making the sector more efficient and responsive to tenant needs, and doing much more for social housing affordability.

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Penalties make hospitals accountable

Sooner or later the medical profession is going to have to realise that health funders are serious about no longer simply paying for medical `inputs' but are serious about paying for `outputs' - quality outcomes for patients.

Aided and abetted by an increasingly health literate population, with smart watches and mobile internet, both consumers and funders want to know more about the care being provided. And why shouldn't they?

The government's proposal to penalise hospitals for preventable mistakes which cause death or serious harm - i.e. `sentinel events' such as operating on the wrong person, a newborn being sent home with the wrong family, patient suicide and fatal medication errors - will launch on July 1 of this year.

Public hospitals will not receive funding for any episodes of care that contain a sentinel event, potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

The real objective, of course, is to improve safety and quality across Australia's public hospitals - which still fail to meet benchmarks and demonstrate significant clinical variance.

State health departments maintain that half the sentinel events to attract a penalty are "not preventable" and the list should be narrowed. Nevertheless, it is anticipated the policy will be extended to include other hospital-acquired complications; a step the AMA is hoping to delay until 2020.

Other critics argue the new regime will encourage hospitals to hide mistakes: so much for open-disclosure and patient-centred care, not to mention the integrity of health professionals.

More alarmingly, some commentators have suggested that sentinel events (even if they are acknowledged) don't reflect hospital quality. The argument that financial penalties are unlikely to significantly improve "the bottom line" on health spending misses the point about greater demands for the transparency of health outcomes.

A good way to improve outcomes - and one that has been successful in other sectors of the economy - is consumer feedback. Penalising hospitals for medical errors is just a different, and very valuable, kind of feedback. And one that holds hospitals accountable for the care they provide.

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Why Tasmanian Taxpayers Should Not Fund MONA

The Australian Christian Lobby has condemned the latest horrific and debauched `art' spectacle proposed by Hermann Nitsch at Tasmania's MONA attraction and has called on Premier Will Hodgman to withdraw taxpayer support of it.

"Like so much of MONA's `art', this production is an affront to civil and decent society. It is a debased occultist ritual clothed in the guise of art," ACL Tasmanian director Mark Brown said.

The 150.Action `blood ritual' is scheduled to take place at Macquaire Point, Hobart in June.

"MONA has yet again pushed the boundaries too far and our political leaders must show courage, as Federal MP Andrew WIlkie and Hobart Lord Mayor Sue Hickey have done, by standing up to such depravity," Mr Brown said.

"I applaud Lord Mayor Hickey and Mr Wilkie for their clear and uncompromising opposition to the event," Mr Brown said.

"As the Lord Mayor pointed out, many religious people would especially find this imagery highly offensive.

"Drinking blood, mock crucifixions, naked bodies oozing blood out of their genitalia and frenzied "disciples" cavorting in blood, semen and guts while church bells chime in the background - who in their right mind would think this is acceptable in a modern civil society?

"If MONA want to put on shows like this, they should do so without State Government partnership and taxpayers' money."

Mr Brown said it was disappointing to hear Mr Hodgman say that the State Government was partnering with Mona because "it brings extraordinary economic returns for our state".

"Most Tasmanians would agree that just because something may support the economy it doesn't mean it should happen," Mr Brown said.

"As Tourism Minister and Premier, is this really how Mr Hodgman would want our beautiful state to be known and remembered by tourists?"

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the show.

"Taxpayer funding of this type of event reflects poorly on our community's core values and our image of what it means to be human," Mr Brown said.

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Vic to get justice overhaul, more cops

Violent criminals will be subject to the same post-sentence monitoring and as sex offenders and some will even remain locked up, in Victoria's $308 million justice overhaul.

Those deemed by a court as unsuitable for release into the community at the end of a prison sentence will be sent to a 10-bed facility to be built within the existing prison system.

Others will be subject to electronic monitoring, curfews, no-go zones and strict reporting requirements, it was announced on Thursday.

The Sex Offender Response Unit, made up of police, intelligence analysts and corrections staff, will manage the expanded scheme and a new authority will be created to oversee unit.

It will all be a part of $308 million package to implement the recommendations of the Harper Review.

The review was prompted by the murder of 17-year-old Masa Vukotic at the hands of Sean Price, who was in the community on a supervision order in 2015.

Law and order was the major theme of the government's pre-budget announcements on Thursday.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Police Minister Lisa Neville also announced where some of the first 300 new frontline officers will be walking their new beats.

More than 100 new officers will go to west to Wyndham, Maribyrnong, Melton and Brimbank; 89 are headed north to Hume, Moonee Valley and Moreland; 50 are going to the southeast; 45 to Whittlesea and 10 to Geelong.

The new recruits are a part of a $2 billion announcement made last year, with the funds set aside in next week's budget.

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Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here