Australian author Tim Winton argues that misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma. Photograph: Lynn Webb
In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight
TIM WINTON Mon 9 Apr 2018 The Guardian
I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because I’m at the beach and in the water a lot.
As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who don’t exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.
I like the teasing and the joking that goes on, the shy asymmetrical conversations, the fitful moments of mutual bewilderment and curiosity. A lot of the time I’m just watching and listening. With affection. Indulgence. Amusement. Often puzzled, sometimes horrified. Interested, but careful, of course, not to appear too interested. And the wonderful thing about getting older – something many women will understand – is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’re left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.
We’ve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. There are lots of reasons for having clear-felled and burnt our own traditions since the 1960s, and some of them are very good reasons. But I’m not sure what we’ve replaced them with. We’ve left our young people to fend for themselves. We retain a kind of indulgent, patronising, approval of rites of passage in other cultures, including those of our first peoples, but the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.
What are we left with? The sly first beer your uncle slips you. The 18th birthday party where the keg is the icon. Maybe the B&S ball, if you live in the bush. First drink, first root, first bog-lap in your mum’s Corolla. Call me a snob, but that strikes me as pretty thin stuff. This, surely, is cultural impoverishment. And in such a prosperous country. To my mind, that’s salt rising to the surface, poisoning the future.
In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.
Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. I’m not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because that’s clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.
A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.
Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.
Children are born wild. And that’s beautiful, it’s wondrous, regardless of gender. Even when they’re feral creatures, kids are reservoirs of tenderness and empathy. But some do turn into savages. And sadly most of those are boys. They’re trained into it. Because of neglect or indulgence. And when we meet them in the street, and have them in our classrooms, and haul them into the courts, we recoil from them in horror and disgust. Our detention centres and jails are heaving with them. These wild colonial boys, they’re a terror to Australia. Real and imagined. But I worry about our revulsion for them, our desire to banish them from consciousness for their noncompliance, their mistakes, or their faithful adherence to the scripts that have been written for them.
Boys need help. And, yes, men need fixing – I’m mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I don’t deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.
But before we even get to that point, we have to acknowledge the awkward, implacable fact of their existence, especially those who most offend our sensibilities. We should resist our instinct or our ideological desire to cross the street to avoid them, our impulse to shut them down and shut them out and finally lock them up. We need to have higher expectations of them. Provide better modelling for them.
But before any of that is possible we need to attend to them. Yes, boys need their unexamined privilege curtailed. Just as they need certain proscribed privileges and behaviours made available to them. But the first step is to notice them. To find them worthy of our interest. As subjects, not objects. How else can we hope to take responsibility for them? And it’s men who need to step up and finally take their full share of that responsibility.
Kathleen Cormier is trying to instil a sense of gratitude in her sons, aged 12 and 17. But sometimes she wonders if other parents have given up.
Some of her sons’ peers, she says, are lacking in the basics of gratitude, such as looking adults in the eye to thank them. The saddest part, she says, is that many parents don’t even expect their children to be grateful any more. They are accustomed to getting no acknowledgment for, say, devoting their weekend to driving them from activity to activity. There is “such a lack of respect”, she says.
Every generation seems to complain that children “these days” are so much more entitled and ungrateful than in years past. This time, they may be right. In today’s selfie culture, which often rewards bragging and arrogance over kindness and humility, many people are noticing a drop-off in everyday expressions of gratitude.
In a 2012 national online poll of 2000 adults, commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation, 59 per cent of those surveyed thought that most people today were “less likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago”. The youngest group, 18 to 24-year-olds, were the least likely of any age group to report expressing gratitude regularly (35 per cent) and the likeliest to express gratitude for self-serving reasons (“it will encourage people to be kind or generous to me”).
“In some communities, specifically among the white middle and upper-middle class, there’s good reason to believe that kids are less grateful than in the past,” says psychologist Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s graduate school of education. He places much of the blame on the self-esteem movement.
As Weissbourd sees it, parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves — if parents praise them, cater to their every need and make them feel happy — it will help them to develop character. “But what we’re seeing in many cases is the opposite,’’ he says. “When parents organise their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement.’’ And when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing.
A growing body of research points to the many psychological and social benefits of regularly counting your blessings. The good news for parents: it also suggests that it’s never too late for their children to learn the subtle joys of appreciating the good in their lives. Gratitude can be cultivated at any age, whether it finds expression as a mood, a social emotion or a personality trait.
Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power — and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely. For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off “thank you”. It’s a mindset, a way of seeing the world.
“Gratitude is also a spiritual emotion, whether it’s implicitly or explicitly expressed,” says David Rosmarin, director of the spirituality and mental health program at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard medical school. Almost every religion includes gratitude as part of its value system, he says, citing familiar practices such as prayers of thanks or blessings over food.
In a study led by Rosmarin, published in 2011 in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers surveyed more than 400 adults online, assessing their religious and general gratitude, religious commitment, and mental and physical wellbeing. The researchers found, in keeping with past studies, that general gratitude was associated with less anxiety, less depression and greater wellbeing. They also found gratitude towards God was associated with further reductions in anxiety and depression and increases in wellbeing.
It can be difficult to remember to be grateful, for adults and children alike. Kristen Welch, a mother of three children between the ages of 11 and 18, lives outside Houston and is the author of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. She admits she was once “constantly comparing myself and my home to what others had”. If she visited a neighbour who was remodelling her kitchen, she would want to redo hers too, although it didn’t need it. She noticed a similar attitude in her children. “Whenever I’d give them something, it was never enough. They always wanted more,” she says.
Most of the research on the benefits of gratitude has been focused on adults, but researchers are turning their attention to how gratitude can better the lives of children, too. They’re finding that the experience of high levels of gratitude in the adolescent years can set up a child to thrive. Gratitude initiates what researchers call an “upward spiral of positive emotions”. Adolescents who rate higher in gratitude tend to be happier and more engaged at school, as compared with their less grateful peers, and to give and receive more social support from family and friends. They also tend to experience fewer depressive symptoms and less anxiety, and are less likely to exhibit anti-social behaviour, such as aggression.
Counting your blessings may provide a built-in coping strategy, as research among adults suggests. Grateful people experience daily hassles and annoyances just like everyone else, but they tend to view setbacks through a different lens, reframing challenges in a positive light.
Weissbourd gives the example of one of his students, who comes from a low-income community in South America. “We were talking about gratitude, and he said that whenever he gets frustrated about waiting for the bus, he reminds himself that where he’s from most people have to walk,” he says.
For a study published last year in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers tracked the role of gratitude in the lives of more than 500 adolescents from an affluent area of Long Island in New York across the course of four years, as they moved from middle school to high school. At four different points, students filled out questionnaires, rating on a scale of 1 to 7 how strongly they agreed with statements such as “I have so much to be thankful for”; “If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list”; and “I am grateful to a wide variety of people”.
The researchers also measured anti-social and pro-social behaviours. They asked the students to rate how often (never, sometimes, often) they “stuck up for another kid who was in trouble”, for example, or made “a kid upset because you were mean to them”. The researchers also looked at the students’ satisfaction with different aspects of their lives (school, self, family friends), how much support they received from family and friends, and their levels of empathy and self-regulation.
The study found that a growth in gratitude across the four years not only predicted a growth in pro-social behaviour, it also predicted a decrease in negative social behaviour compared with students whose gratitude levels stayed level or decreased. Being grateful may “undercut the motives for acting antisocially among adolescents”, the researchers suggest.
Students who were more grateful also were better at managing their lives and identifying important goals for the future, says lead researcher Giacomo Bono, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “When adolescents regularly express gratitude,” he adds, “it’s a good litmus test that they’re thriving.”
Grateful adolescents enjoy stronger relationships with their peers, in part perhaps because their positive disposition makes them more attractive and likeable. In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers conducted an experiment with 70 undergraduate students. They found that acquaintances were likelier to want to stay in touch with a student who expressed gratitude toward them (in writing) than students who didn’t show appreciation. Grateful students were perceived by peers as having a warmer personality and being more friendly and thoughtful.
As parents, we do our best to teach our children to be grateful, by doing things such as nagging them to writing thank-you notes. But experts warn that our best efforts can backfire and become a barrier to genuinely experiencing gratitude. Children need to learn how to think gratefully, they say, not just to mindlessly go through the motions of giving thanks.
Cormier says she has worked hard to make gratitude a family habit since her children were little — and now it has become the norm. She encourages finding gratitude in the “everyday stuff”, she says, not just in response to birthday and Christmas presents. She also tries to teach gratitude by example. When her children help out around the house, such as noticing when the bin is full and taking it out, she thanks them. And now, she says, “my kids thank me every single time I put fresh sheets on their bed”, chaperone a field trip or make them dinner.
In a paper published in 2014 in the journal School Psychology Review, researchers describe an educational program they developed to train primary school students, aged eight to 11, in gratitude. More than 200 students participated. Half were assigned to a control condition, while the other half were assigned to the gratitude intervention, which some received for one week and others for more than five. The program’s lessons included, for example, reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and asking students to write down one thing they would do to show the generous tree in the story that they were grateful for what it had done.
Researchers found that students who received the training, even for just one week, were not only better at thinking gratefully, they also reported experiencing more grateful emotions and greater increases in positive social behaviour (such as writing thank-you notes) and emotional wellbeing than students in the control group. When researchers followed up five months later with students who had stayed in the program longer, these positive effects had continued to grow. With intentional practice, experts say, gratitude can move from a fleeting state to a habit and eventually can become a personality trait.
The research points to several ways that parents can help children to think gratefully. Parents can spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: “Jack really knows how much you love football. How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favourite team” or “Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play!”.
For some parents, a good starting point is simply to set a better example themselves. In the Templeton poll, less than half of respondents said they expressed thanks or gratitude daily to their spouse or partner.
It’s also important for children — and adults — to notice and acknowledge the larger circle of people who benefit their lives, such as the school secretary or janitor, says Weissbourd. “In a society that has become so splintered and self-focused,” he says, “gratitude is a common bond and offers one of the best ways for us to connect with one another.”
Pauline Hanson insists addicts must cover the costs of their treatment
The West Australian 4 March 2017 PAUL MURRAY
Based on a recent opinion poll, more than half the West Australians who will vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation next weekend are driven by a dislike of both Islam and the major political parties.
So while those who will actually form government continue to spend like drunken sailors buying votes, One Nation gets the bulk of its support at no cost to the taxpayer.
As is usual with protest movements, Pauline Hanson’s is best known for what it opposes rather than for things it supports.
But many voters might be surprised that the fledgling WA arm of PHON has released a range of policies in recent weeks that have escaped widespread media scrutiny.
That’s despite the possibility Hanson could hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council in a week’s time and have an arm lock on the next government.
So even if PHON voters are not interested in policy detail — preferring Hanson’s broadbrush nationalism on things such as foreign ownership and immigration — everyone else should be concerned about the party’s platform.
That’s because the next Parliament might just be dancing on it to Pauline’s tune.
For example, PHON wants methamphetamine-addicted criminals to pay for their own compulsory — and indefinite — treatment. The cash will be taken by force if necessary.
“One Nation WA proposes a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy to help tackle the methamphetamine scourge in our community,” the policing and community safety policy says. “If a meth user is caught two times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
“Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release.
“Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.”
Juvenile criminals, too, are in for a shock, with a promise to introduce controversial “broken windows” laws in WA. They crack down on minor crimes to create an atmosphere of law and order but are criticised for being inherently unjust and not addressing the causes of disorder, which are often racial.
“A philosophy of coming down hard on minor offences with juveniles in particular in order to deter future offending,” is how the PHON policy describes the approach.
The party also promises to examine new laws making parents accountable for the criminal behaviour of their children. It also supports a “Fagin’s Law” approach which targets those procuring young people to commit offences.
PHON also wants to build more prisons, for punishment rather than rehabilitation, and to make life inside tougher.
“Prisons are no longer a deterrent to crime,” the party says. “Society as a whole needs to consider what role prisons play in punishment and rehabilitation.
“Prisons should not be the home prisoners never had. We believe sufficiently punitive measures should exist for lawbreakers.”
Tough-on-crime promises are standard at election time, but the One Nation policies released so far miss several hot-button issues such as debt reduction and WA’s GST share and strangely ignore health, the biggest spending part of the Budget. There’s nothing yet on electricity prices, other than keeping Western Power in State hands — which doesn’t stop costs rising and won’t cut debt — but it wants to drive down gas prices by reserving more for domestic use.
On affordable housing, PHON says the key is to cut immigration levels and deter foreign buyers with a 20 per cent penalty tax. Labor wants a 4 per cent surcharge which it says would raise $21 million.
PHON wants no “racial/ethnic preferences” in public housing allocations and promises a minimum of 15 per cent of all government land and home developments would be targeted at low-to-moderate income households.
The party also blames immigration for Perth’s congested roads and services.
So to “ease congestion, lift productivity, generate economic growth and jobs and keep our assets in Australian hands”, it is proposing to start its own bank.
“A WA Infrastructure Finance Corporation would be financed with seed funding and direct public funding and operate on a commercial basis,” the party says, clearly forgetting Brian Burke’s similar experiment with the WA Development Corporation.
“It would help finance infrastructure projects in our State, at concessional interest rates, thus spreading the costs across the generations who would benefit from these projects.
“This method would allow WA to finance and construct major projects while earning a return for the taxpayer. It would allow the government to cut its Budget expenditure, freeing up funds either to pay down debt or to invest in education, health, families, policing and other areas.”
Most of these policies are highly contentious — and in some cases deeply flawed — deserving scrutiny against the likelihood that One Nation will have enough influence in the coming Parliament to exert substantial pressure on whoever forms government.
One Nation believes that communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic.
Solutions for Ice Addicts
One Nation proposes a three strikes and you’re out . If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Solutions for Dealers
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice.
Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison.
Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
It’s widely known as ICE, yet it’s also referred to as Crystal Meth or Methamphetamine. No matter how it’s referred to, the drug is with certainty, followed by misery.
Statistics now show there are 270,000 regular ‘ice’ users in Australia and the numbers are growing rapidly. Wherever I go throughout the country, the main issue raised by people is ice. Nurses and doctors are having to deal with ice users in our already overrun and understaffed hospitals, while other patients are forced to wait. A nurse informed me she was aware of a man losing his life due to a heart attack while waiting for doctors attending an ice user. This is simply unacceptable!
Our police and ambulance officers face regular abuse or attacks from overdosed ice users. Some of you might say this is a State Government issue, however this drug in particular is having national consequences and it’s about time the Federal Government encouraged the states to take a unified approach in combatting ice.
Two young mothers at Tweed Heads (NSW) told me the drug is out of control and ice can be purchased in a matter of 5 minutes in their community. They are in genuine fear for their children and themselves. It appears no place in Australia is free from ice and the devastation that comes with its use. Small country towns in the outback are also under attack. These once peaceful communities are being destroyed by crime, abuse and fear associated with ice. The Vulnerable and youth are being targeted, leaving parents and loved ones not knowing what to do, or where to go.
I have no sympathy for drug users. I do however for their families, friends and communities who deal with the destruction they cause. The ice users are ‘bloody idiots’ to say the least. Everyone has a choice in life. Being depressed, out of a job or feeling sorry for yourself is no reason to take ice. There are many people who can claim these ailments that turn to drugs. People have to start taking responsibility for their actions.
I am fed up with the innocent and taxpayers having to pick up the pieces for thugs and idiots, or irresponsible and selfish non-contributors in our society. I cannot understand the reasons why someone who is a hardworking, family person, wants to take ice?
Communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic. I propose three strikes and you’re out. If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control. They must cover the costs, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice. Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison. Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
I am not interested in do-gooders supporting the ‘rights’ of these criminals. When greed and disregard overshadows the impact on human life and society as a whole, they should forfeit all freedoms.
JUDGES will pocket up to $500 a week extra in plump pay rises next year after blaming ice addicts for worsening workloads and job stress.
Federal Circuit Court judges have demanded a bonus two weeks’ holiday and a doubling of superannuation contributions and service leave.
The Remuneration Tribunal yesterday gave federal judges a 4.8 per cent bonus from January 1, swelling the salary of Australia’s first female High Court chief justice, Susan Kiefel, to $573,046 next year.
Other High Court judges will pocket an extra $23,818 — bumping their pay to $520,028.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity”. Picture: Hollie Adams
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity’’ due to an increase in drug use — especially methamphetamine — as well as mental illness and allegations of sexual abuse and family violence.
She said some litigants posed a “real/significant threat’’ to judges.
And she warned the “extraordinary number of cases’’ involving family violence “has put the courts under considerable pressure’’.
“The parenting cases … require difficult fact-finding about contested issues including sexual abuse of children, family violence … mental health issues and substance abuse,’’ Chief Justice Bryant states in her submission, kept secret for a year and made public yesterday after a Freedom of Information request by The Daily Telegraph.
The Chief Judge of the FCC, John Pascoe, told the tribunal that Federal Circuit Court judges receive only four weeks’ holiday a year, compared to eight weeks for Family Court judges and 10 weeks for Federal Court or NSW District court judges.
He called for at least six weeks holidays — as well as six months long service leave after five years in the job.
“Annual leave of four weeks a year is inadequate given the demands of trial judge work,’’ his submission states.
“Failure to deal with these issues to date has had a deleterious effect on the health and wellbeing of judges of the court.’’
Cartoonist Warren’s perspective.
Chief Judge Pascoe said the Federal Circuit Court — which hears family law cases, refugee and migration claims, consumer lawsuits and counter-terrorism issues — was the “primary face of federal justice’’ and its judges should be paid 90 per cent of a Federal Court judge’s salary.
“The average Australian experiencing difficulties in family life, at work, or in their business will appear before this court,’’ he said.
Chief Justice Pascoe said Federal Circuit Court judges’ superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary, because they were missing out on the usual judicial pension of 60 per cent of their salary after 10 years’ service.
But the tribunal rejected the claim, handing Federal Circuit Court judges a $17,046 pay rise instead of the $23,599 they asked for, and ignoring the holiday and superannuation demands. The Remuneration Tribunal ruled that a 4.8 per cent pay rise “recognises the increased complexities faced by judges … in an environment of continued economic and wages restraint’’.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe said superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
The judges’ pay rise is double the 2.4 per cent awarded to Australia’s poorest workers this year, and comes on top of a 2 per cent pay rise for federal judges in 2016. The federal Attorney- General’s Department fought the proposed increase, noting that Federal Circuit Court judges’ salaries had doubled between 2002 to $355,130 this year, while the average wage had risen 71 per cent to $80,415.
“Given the large number of judicial officers and the generous level of remuneration they receive, any percentage increase in judicial remuneration will affect the government’s budget position,’’ it told the tribunal.
The NSW government complained that any federal pay rises will trigger “me too’’ pay claims from judges in this state. NSW Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal head Richard Grellman warned if NSW failed to match federal pay packets, it “may have an adverse impact on the ability of … NSW … to attract and retain the best available people to the NSW courts’’.
NSW judges are paid more than judges interstate, with the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court earning $482,470 this year.
The West Australian Government has released a comprehensive policy aimed at combatting ice. The policy includes rehabilitation, prevention – focused on education in schools – and interdiction by the police. Drug legalisation and smoking rooms, similar in concept to injecting rooms, have been ruled out.
With encouragement from the Family Council of WA, the Council for the National Interest (CNIWA) hosted a Drugs Forum in Perth on August 14, 2016, featuring three speakers covering different aspects of the epidemic of illicit drugs that is sweeping Australia.
In preparing for this forum, the CNIWA investigated the evidence of the past 40 years and found that the policy of harm minimisation, instead of harm prevention, was the root cause of the increase in demand for illicit drugs.
Drug Free Australia chief executive Jo Baxter prepared an extensive presentation as to why Australia has achieved the status of ice capital of the world and how we can get fix this. Jo provided stark comparisons between Australia’s illicit-drug industry growth and Sweden’s reduction in drug use brought about by implementing a policy of reducing demand.
Statistics from the latest United Nations World Drug Report (2015) bear out the assertion that Australia’s per capita rate of drug use for 15–64 year olds is the world’s highest. Sweden, with 40 per cent of Australia’s population, has 29,500 problematic drug users. Australia has 220,000 dependent cannabis users and over 200,000 ice users.
The mantra of drug legalisers that prohibition does not work is clearly given the lie by the Swedish figures. Australia’s focus on minimising harm by giving priority to treatment instead of prevention and early intervention has resulted in the ice problem reaching pandemic proportions.
West African and Chinese organised crime gangs view Australia as a soft touch, with a lack of political will and leadership creating a demand for a highly profitable illicit drug business. Australians are paying world record prices for illicit drugs so it is no wonder organised crime syndicates are flooding the market. Ice is extremely addictive even when knowing the effects are extremely harmful.
Ice smoking leads to brain damage, increased risk to safety in workplaces, increased danger on roads, increased violence in communities, families and relationships. (Hospital emergency departments are on the front line of this drug scourge.)
To repair the damage of 40 years of harmful promoting of illicit drug use Australia should adopt the Swedish compassionate policing model, with court-enforced rehabilitation as against enforced prison, and with an emphasis on rehabilitation of all problem drug users. Sweden went from having the highest rate of drug use in Europe in 1970 to the lowest by 2000.
Australia can emulate Sweden with a restrictive drug policy while maintaining criminal use of drugs to emphasise the harm of illicit drugs, especially methamphetamines.
The WA Government Methamphetamine Strategy is a good start to combatting the scourge of illicit drugs. However, the emphasis still seems to be focused on rehabilitation rather than primary prevention if funding is any indicator. The Australian anti-smoking campaign is evidence of a successful social modification program that can apply to a concerted effort for combating illicit drug use.
Peter Lyndon-James of Shalom House
A complete contrast to the clinical analysis by Jo Baxter was the presentation by Peter Lyndon-James, founder and director of Shalom House Rehabilitation Centre in Perth. In a very forthright manner Peter described the conditions of addicts and his Christian ethics-based, cold turkey treatment of addicts who voluntarily enter his rehabilitation process.
Demand for his service is overwhelming, encouraging a growth in facilities to accommodate the number of damaged men seeking freedom from illicit drug use. Peter emphasised the importance of the addict asking for help, until which time the addict will not commit to the rehabilitation program that may take 12 months or more to achieve success.
Associate Professor Dr Stuart Reece presented an extensive review of research assembled in association with Professor Gary Hulse of UWA.
Professor Reece’s expose of marijuana and the negative genetic influences needs a full forum of its own to do justice to the material presented. The experience of the generation of the 1960 and ’70s experimentation with drugs that “did me no harm” distorts the reality of the cannabis market of today, with product 80 per cent stronger in cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the two main active ingredients in cannabis.
When combined with a vigorous illicit drug industry peddling brain-destroying methamphetamines, the wrong messages are being conveyed to today’s youth. Professor Reece offered damning research evidence that pregnant women and sexually active males should not be using marijuana. Otherwise, Australia’s next generation will suffer the deadly consequences of genetic defects from the use of cannabinoids.
Professor Reece’s message for Australians, and for the next three to four generations hence, is to ignore the evidence at your peril.
It was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere in Canada that two young entrepreneurs unveiled the next big thing in tech. They called it “the least advanced NoPhone ever”. The device inside the sleek, slimline packaging had no buttons, no screen and no way to tweet, take a selfie or even make a call.
In fact, the NoPhone Air was nothing but an empty package, the size of a smartphone.
It was a joke. But the dig at the relentless pace of reinvention in the mobile phone industry, at the same time as Apple launched the iPhone 7, tapped into something very real: the growing desire to turn off, tune out, unplug.
The signs suggest smartphone addiction has hit iPeak. Next month, the Light Phone — which is the size of a credit card and can make calls, store ten numbers and do nothing else — will be launched in the US by two friends who met at a Google “incubator” for whizzkids and grew jaded by the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.
The Light Phone Video
In London, Liverpool, Berlin and Los Angeles people are participating in “killyourphone” workshops, creating their own signal-blocking pouches with glue and copper-coated cloth, and dipping their devices into cement to take a symbolic time-out from Tinder and Twitter.
Even Kanye West has called time on his timeline, declaring: “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create,” in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 38,000 times by people who have, presumably, yet to embrace his example of digital detox. The singer Katy Perry appeared to agree, replying: “Unplug to connect.” The actor Eddie Redmayne also confessed to having swapped his smartphone for an old-fashioned handset because he was sick of “being glued permanently to my iPhone”.
Given that the average user taps their phone 2,617 times a day, with 89 per cent of us unable to resist checking our device at least once between midnight and 5am, it is perhaps inevitable there has been a reaction that has prompted a surge of interest in “retro tech”.
Your phone away from phone
Dumbphones are now de rigueur, with old, trusty, uncrackable Nokia handsets selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. About 4,700 Nokia 3310s, a classic, 16-year-old model, have been sold on the online marketplace in the past three months — two every hour. And 23 Nokia N70s have been sold every day over the same period.
It was partly rebellion against the Apple ethos and partly a desire to return to something that had been lost, that encouraged Joe Hollier, a 26-year-old skateboarder and graphic designer from Brooklyn, and his friend, Kaiwei Tang, who spent a decade designing phones for Motorola, to launch their own bare minimum device.
The pair met on a Google program for new talent two years ago.
“Everything was about creating apps to get users hooked, rather than developing something people needed,” said Mr Hollier. “We felt that is not how it’s supposed to be.” Worst of all, he said, “they were trying to frame it as if we were making the world a better place, by getting people addicted and selling them more stuff. I couldn’t help but call B.S on that. We felt they were missing the point.”
They created the Light Phone — a dollars 100 device, available in the UK by the end of the year, which shares the same number as your main number, forwarding on calls and offering little else, for the times when email and gadgetry may not be necessary. They call it “going light”.
“Do I really need a computer in my pocket when I’m skateboarding, or going out for dinner with my girlfriend? No,” said Mr Hollier.
He realised that constantly checking what other people were doing on Instagram and Facebook was chipping away at his own contentment.
“I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would always come out of them feeling not necessarily good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away — I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out.”
“I felt free. I realised I was happier in those disconnected moments, when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives.”
He stressed that the Light Phone was not a substitute, but simply a supplement. “It doesn’t have to mean going completely off-grid. It could mean just taking 20 minutes to get a coffee.”
He insisted his product was refining, rather than regressing. “We’re sparking a conversation. What do I want my technology to do for me?”
Aram Bartholl, 42, a conceptual artist in Berlin, started his killyourphone workshops a couple of years ago. “We all have these little computers in our pockets but we don’t really know how they work or who’s recording our data. For me, the pouch is a way to think a little more about what they do, and how we live with them.
“Suddenly, you have a person who’s used to technology sitting down with scissors and glue and a sewing machine — a machine from another revolution — in a completely different social situation. It gives connection a whole different meaning.”
Lucy Bannerman,The Times – The Australian 24 Sept 2016
Signalling the role he will play in the new parliament, Tony Abbott delivered a message yesterday to Malcolm Turnbull and the nation, saying the coming parliamentary term must tackle a strong reform agenda of budget repair, federation renewal, productivity and tax changes.
Excluded from cabinet by the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott will raise his voice in the public arena to identify what he believes are necessary and aspirational tests for the government, a process that will delight some Liberals but infuriate Mr Turnbull. After listing reforms he believed were essential this term, Mr Abbott said they “can’t stay in the too-hard basket for the whole term of this parliament”.
“We can’t take our strength and prosperity for granted,” he said. “Every day we need to ask how we can be better, smarter, stronger, and adjust as circumstances require.”
Mr Abbott intends this parliament to act as the advance guard for the economic reform cause. His underlying political message is that Mr Turnbull must not be intimidated out of bold actions by the difficult situation he faces in parliament after the election.
Having been excluded from cabinet, Mr Abbott will become a public force asking the government to do better.
In a reflective speech to the Samuel Griffith Society’s annual conference in Adelaide last night, he admitted responsibility for two failures he identified from his time as prime minister — his inability to reform Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in the cause of free speech and to achieve “the beginnings of federation reform”.
In a remarkable concession, Mr Abbott also admitted he may have been at fault in opposing so strongly the Gillard government’s Malaysia deal on asylum-seekers. While he still doubted the scheme would have worked to halt the boats, letting it stand “would have been a step back from the hyper-partisanship that now poisons our public life”.
Mr Abbott’s purpose in reflecting on his own failures and urging the Turnbull government to be bold is to project the idea that the nation and the Coalition government needs to do better.
This speech is the first post-election signal of how Mr Abbott interprets his mission as a banner-carrier for the conservative wing of the party.
On reflection, he said his effort to reform Section 18C might have “fared better” if his initial bid had been merely to drop “offend” and “insult”, while “leaving in place prohibitions on the more serious harms”. He lamented that there was still “no real prospect of change” even though several Queenslanders now faced “official persecution for questioning reverse discrimination on social media”.
Making clear he would continue the campaign for reform of this section, Mr Abbott complained that the Australian parliament “prefers to tolerate an over-the-top prosecution than to upset thin-skinned activists”.
With the Turnbull government having abandoned the federation reform process, Mr Abbott is putting the idea back on the agenda. He wants a federation that allows “different levels of government to be more sovereign in their own sphere”.
He has defended his government’s decision to reduce federal funding support to the states for the Rudd-Gillard spending agendas on schools and health.
“Our idea, the constitutionally correct idea, was to have the states and territories that run public schools and public hospitals take more responsibility for funding them,” he said.
“The commonwealth can’t be the states’ ATM if our federation is to work. Government can’t continue to live beyond its means.
“I did make these points, but not often enough or persuasively enough to bring about the changes I sought. You won’t be surprised that I have been reflecting on my time as opposition leader as well as prime minister.”
His main concession on this front was to say that while the Malaysian deal negotiated by the Gillard government involved only 800 boatpeople to be returned, he felt there was a political argument for allowing Labor in office the opportunity to implement its policy.
This reappraisal is driven by the highly partisan and destructive climate of current politics and involves a degree of self-criticism on Mr Abbott’s part.
He said the current imperative for economic reform meant “the sensible centre needs to focus even more intently on what really matters to middle-of-the-road voters”.
Mr Abbott said: “We have to keep reform alive, because it’s the reforms of today that create the prosperity of tomorrow.”
Yet the agenda he proposes would be very difficult for Mr Turnbull — it is hard to imagine the Prime Minister going beyond his election tax agenda based upon corporate tax cuts. Federation reform is currently off the table. And productivity reform is typically a hard political ask.
It is apparent Mr Turnbull’s decision to keep Mr Abbott on the backbench guarantees that the latter will increasingly promote his own reform agenda.
Juan Cartagena: “The problem of building trust online is not a fad but it is fundamental.”
Traity CEO Juan Cartagena knows how to measure trust
by Rachel Botsman 4 August 2016 AFR
In 2011, Spanish-born Juan Cartagena was scammed buying a computer on Gumtree, the second-hand goods website.
He lost £250 in the fraudulent transaction. Around the same time, he was trying to get in contact with a girl who went to the same school as he did, on Facebook. But at the start, she wasn’t sure about meeting him in person. Cartagena even sent her his résumé to try to convince her he was a decent person in the hope of getting a date. Both experiences pointed to the same problem: building trust and proving that a person is trustworthy online is tricky and taxing.
Cartagena, a 34-year-old entrepreneur with a background in electrical engineering, realised this was a problem worth solving not just for himself but for other people. In 2012, with close friends Jose Fernandez and Borja Martin, he founded Traity, a reputation standard to help people prove their trustworthiness across the web. To date, the Mountain View-based start-up has raised more than $US4.7 million.
In the age of companies such as Airbnb, Uber and eBay that depend on the willingness of strangers to trust one another at a global scale, the idea behind Traity seems big and logical. But as Cartagena has discovered, getting people to value their online reputation is challenging because we still don’t quite get how it works or understand its value.
Canadian ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” It’s a metaphor that resonates with many visionary entrepreneurs. So how does Cartagena think Traity can crack the future of trust?
Why do you want to help solve the difficulties of proving you are trustworthy online?
The problem of building trust online is not a fad but it is fundamental. When people don’t trust each other, there are social and economic limitations to human transactions. And this is a big problem to solve because we now operate in very large communities, open networks, where we don’t know the buyers and sellers. We are transacting with strangers all the time and it requires a new level of understanding and trust between people. Because of my engineering background, I think about economic inefficiencies and how to solve them in ways that generate real economic value. So I figured I could build a trust engine that would help those transactions happen more fluently and eliminate barriers to trade.
What is Traity trying to achieve?
Traditional systems of proving whether people are worth trusting are not particularly effective or empowering. They diminish and devalue people when they go through the automated screening processes to get a credit score. This score then seriously affects how easy or difficult it is for people to make all kinds of transactions, from securing a loan to a rental agreement to getting a job.
I want to build a world where more people can trust one another and where we are not solely judged by traditional systems of assessment. There will always be lack of trust between people, but if we can make a dent into how people can enter into the economic graph, then it would be very significant.
How do Traity reputation standards work?
To help people trust one another online, we give people a reputation passport that consists of different dimensions. The first is to do with identification, which is proving you are who you say you are. Next, it has to do with behaviours, which shows interests you may have common with another person. For example, you both play tennis or love cats. The final dimension is about transaction data, which means analysing people’s ratings, reviews, history and testimonials to see how they have behaved in past. These components create a personal reputation standard you can use across the web that can empower people to achieve things or access opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible.
Traity recently received a patent for a “network of trust”. How will it work?
The patent basically says that we are like a social network. If you trust somebody on the Traity network, you use the “trust” button in the same way on Twitter you have the “follow” button. But if that person misbehaves in some way, that will have implications for you; it will lower your reputation.
Your reputation does not increase if the person you follow behaves well. It is designed this way to create incentives to trust only people you really believe are trustworthy and not have a network of a thousand followers. We expect people to have networks of three to five people who really trust each other and to be able to use the web of trust in different contexts.
You are working on future-oriented products. How were you able to convince investors to trust your vision?
At our first investor meeting, I said, “Look, Minority Report is going to happen. The key question is, who is going to do it? It may be Google, it may be Facebook, or it may be a small start-up from Spain.” They were very impressed by that because I was thinking 15 years ahead. When I talk about Traity, I tell stories to get people to empathise. I usually put people in the framework of a future that’s five to 10 years’ away, full of micro-entrepreneurs and micro-franchises of companies powered by the likes of Etsy, Uber or Airbnb. I tell investors that these companies can make a significant impact on the GDP and they all need better systems of trust.
What makes the founders of Traity a good team?
I met Jose, one of my co-founders, when we were eight years old in school. Jose completed his PhD in machine learning and I went on to get an MBA. I met Borja, a phenomenal programmer, when we were 18. We have complementary skills: Jose brings an academic point of view; Borja is the pragmatic executor who can design and deliver the actual products himself; and I am the hustler and driver of the long-term vision.
What are the challenges of making Traity a successful business?
When we started, we thought that people would want to see each other’s reputation and profiles from Traity, and maybe pay a few cents to see, say, your profile. That was not true. People aren’t used to paying for what they already think they know. That’s why we have shifted our focus on how trust profiles and technology can be leveraged to transform the delivery of products people already buy, like house insurance or income protection.
The insurance industry will fundamentally have to change from basing products on assets to focusing on insuring personal behaviours. Reputation data can help large insurance companies give more efficient pricing to people who deserve it.
What keeps you and your team motivated?
Two weeks ago, I got the team together for a meeting. I asked everyone to complete the sentence “Traity is important because…” When they finished, I said, “Take whatever you have written and write, “And that is important because…” It allowed us to focus on the inner purpose of what we’re trying to do. It was really exciting to see what everyone came up with because most people had written something to do with people deserving a fairer world. Thinking of that refuels me and I was reminded that I’m starting something that could really improve the status quo.
You are asking people to trust a start-up with their data. Why should people trust Traity?
We transparently explain what we do and how we do it, so people have confidence in how we’re using and treating data. As a company, we discuss ethics in terms of giving people full control over their data and giving them the right to eliminate an infraction on a reputation after a certain period of time. Our competitive advantage is not to tightly control data, but to empower people to use it better. There are tangible things we are doing to prove we are the right people to be trusted with sensitive data. For instance, we are fingerprinting everything on the blockchain, the public ledger technology that enables people to verify something actually happened. This means in the unfortunate case that Traity goes bust or a customer decides they don’t want to be a Traity customer any more, they can still have full control over their data and take it with them.
What will Traity never do with people’s data?
Large companies have made us offers such as: “We’ll pay you $50,000 if you can analyse our users in X way.” I’m very happy we’ve said no to those offers even though we don’t have any revenue yet. We don’t want to be a typical data analysis company. Traity is a company that focuses on giving people the proactive ability to decide how they want to use their reputation. To give them the same control as they would over a university [report] card; they decide where, when and who they’ll show their card to.
Poker machine use in the South Australian town of Ceduna has fallen by a third due to a cashless welfare card trial.
By Sarah Martin The Australian 21 June 2016
Poker machine use in the South Australian town of Ceduna has plunged by a third in the past three months as a result of the federal government’s cashless welfare card, new figures show.
Based on average poker-machine turnover in the area, this translates to as much as $7500 a week, or almost $400,000 a year of welfare benefits diverted from spending on gambling in the town.
The dramatic reduction since the card was introduced in April, and reported by the South Australian Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, has been accompanied by reports of a rise in food consumption and a reduction in anti-social behaviour.
Results from the 12-month card trial in Ceduna will be used to determine whether the government rolls out the plan more broadly for welfare recipients in other communities, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said.
“It is early days but these results are very encouraging and if these results continue then we may well have found a model which breaks the serious dysfunction which characterises so many remote locations,” he said.
“If the trials are successful then of course we will explore whether other regions are interested in adopting the model.”
He said the trial results suggested that the card was dramatically reducing the negative social effects of excessive drinking and was directly helping local families.
“A key part of the success has been the community leaders who have worked hand-in-glove with me and the government in co-designing and overseeing the implementation of this, and without their local leadership we would not be in the position that we are in today,” Mr Tudge said.
The trial in Ceduna, 790km northwest of Adelaide, covers about 800 people, with another 1200 covered by the program in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.
About $800,000 a fortnight is being allocated to the so-called Healthy Welfare card across the two locations, money that cannot be used on alcohol or gambling products and cannot be converted to cash. It represents 80 per cent of welfare payments, with the remaining 20 per cent accessible as cash.
Since the card’s introduction, local businesses have reported an increase in trade, including more spending on food at the local supermarket, while the remote community of Oak Valley now receives two food truck deliveries a week instead of one.
The Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Corporation told Mr Tudge that the rollout of the card had resulted in more children with “cleaner, newer clothes” and a significant decline in the number of people requesting basic supplies such as milk and sugar from the community office.
Ceduna district mayor Allan Suter reported that police matters “appear to be substantially lower” and the local drug trade had been “severely affected” because of a lack of cash, with at least one suspected dealer leaving town.
“The very strong consensus … is that this is easily the best our town and community behaviour has ever been and this is being credited to the debit card initiative coupled with the various other measures we have taken,” he said.
Andrew Forrest with Ainsley Meeway following the launch of his review recommending the cashless welfare card. Picture: Colin Murty – The Australian
By Cameron Stewart 10 May 2016 The Australian
There are early signs that the Turnbull government’s new cashless welfare card is benefiting indigenous communities near the trial town of Ceduna in far-west South Australia.
The welfare card is opposed by the Greens as a blight on personal freedom but enjoys bipartisan support from Liberal and Labor as a trial attempt to curb alcohol abuse in regional Australia, especially in remote indigenous communities.
The card, which quarantines 80 per cent of welfare payments from being spent on alcohol or gambling, has been operating for only seven weeks but one Aboriginal community near Ceduna already has recorded a strong increase in the purchase of fresh foods.
Since the card was rolled out on March 15, truck deliveries of food to the indigenous community of Oak Valley have doubled from one truck every two weeks to one a week.
Local sources say it is early days in the year-long trial in the region, but they say the need to double food deliveries to the Oak Valley community is a positive sign.
“It suggests that less money is being spent on alcohol and more on basic essentials like fresh food,” a source connected to the project said.
Local sources said a second Aboriginal community of about 250 people at Yalata near Ceduna has been “much quieter” since the card was rolled out, a fact some attributed to the lack of ready cash to bring alcohol into the officially dry community.
They also reported a greater take-up by indigenous communities of budget planning, where counsellors help a person or family draw up a budget.
The Ceduna region, in the safe Liberal seat of Grey, is the first of two trial areas for the so-called cashless welfare card that aims to reduce alcohol and gambling among all welfare recipients, not just indigenous recipients. If the trial is a success, the government could roll out a similar system across regional Australia. However, critics say it is an overly paternalistic intervention that is unlikely to achieve its aims of curbing alcohol abuse in regional Australia.
Card rollouts also have begun in a second trial zone in the east Kimberley communities of Kununurra and Wyndham. The government is negotiating for a third trial zone near Geraldton, 424km north of Perth.
About 90 per cent of the 950 welfare recipients around Ceduna have received the small silver card, similar to a credit card, on which 80 per cent of their welfare payments are placed, and which can be used to buy anything except alcohol and gambling products.
Only 20 per cent of their welfare payments are given as cash, leaving most recipients with between $60 and $150 cash a week, depending on circumstances.
However, the rollout at Ceduna was not problem-free, with some recipients reporting their cards malfunctioning.
The cashless welfare card arose from a 2014 review of the welfare system by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest.
Efficiency and accountability better for health than handouts
APRIL 1, 2016 12:00AM
Once again, premiers are in Canberra demanding just one thing to fix their collapsing state-run public health systems.
Lined up at the national money dispensary like addicts at a methadone clinic, they’ll seek the sweet liquid sensation of cash to repair health systems too long in the red and state budgets failing under the constant strain.
Under-represented in the meeting’s lexicon, as it always seems to be, is the much-needed commitment to improving government productivity and efficiency.
Here is what I have learned from direct experience: fixing the structural problems of healthcare does not mean responding to an ever-increasing state-based addiction to large cash injections.
Better patient care is about quality, not quantity.
Four years ago, the end-stage cash cravings of mismanagement in Queensland Health were so bad that Treasury forecast this one portfolio would go on to consume every available cent of state revenue, stripping all resources from every other Queensland government function by about 2030.
That was the so-called “power-dive into the abyss” of economic mismanagement under the Beattie and Bligh Labor governments and its main destructive force was the appalling Labor-union control of Queensland Health.
It was the time of the disastrous health payroll fiasco, in which a $7 million contract administered by Labor blew out to cost Queenslanders about $1.25 billion. That’s like paying $300 for a Mars Bar or $2.5m for a Holden Commodore.
In the middle of the sandwich, thousands of Queensland nurses and other health staff were underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all. The state’s independent auditor-general found the construction costs of three new hospitals blew out by $2.2bn because of poor planning and management.
The Independent Commission of Audit found after the Liberal National Party’s election in 2012 that, in the six years of the previous government, there had been a 42 per cent increase in health expenditure yet there had been just a 16 per cent increase in services for patients — those providing the patient services were getting three times the benefit of the patients. A lot more was being spent to get a very small improvement.
The perception of health as an impossible, ungovernable quagmire is false. Even at that dire time in Queensland, a considered, sensible blueprint for better healthcare was readily available. It was drawn up, publicised and implemented by the LNP in a few short months during 2012-13.
I’m pleased to say that more than one year on from the election of the Palaszczuk government, some key elements of that blueprint appear to have stuck, at least in a rhetorical sense. In fact, growth in demand for quality healthcare does require the investment of additional funds, but increases must be moderated. Attached conditions must cut waste, find efficiencies and redirect funding into frontline services. True reforms empower patients. Their genuine choices are the best measure for improved performance. Empowering politicians and union bosses will achieve only the opposite.
In Queensland under the LNP, chronic health deficits became sustained health surpluses, which were reinvested into local health services; a failed system of centralised power was replaced by devolved control to autonomous hospital boards; regular public reporting of local health performance was introduced; a genuine partnership between public, private and non-government sectors flourished with the delivery of additional and enhanced services to public patients; and moribund grants (for example, for fake Tahitian princes) were replaced by competitive, complementary service delivery contracts.
In hard numbers, Queensland cut its 2012 surgery waiting list of 6485 patients to 76 in less than three years.
Long-wait dental waiting lists went from 61,405 to zero. The waiting list for specialist outpatients. which had grown by 90 per cent during the previous six years, was reduced for the first time. On-time delivery of urgent surgery rose from 86 per cent to 98 per cent; semi-urgent surgery from 73 per cent to 94 per cent; and non-urgent surgery from 90 per cent to 97 per cent.
Before Labor left government in March 2012, Queensland Health had double-digit budget increases but recorded deficits of $320m in 2010-11 and $173m the year before that. It was drowning in cash, while its policies allowed hospitals to shut their doors on arriving ambulances even as patients died in the back of them.
Another health budget deficit was forecast for 2011-12, but under the LNP it turned around in the last quarter to break even and then amassed more than $500m in surpluses in the three years I was health minister.
Between 2011-12 and 2014-15 the budget for Queensland Hospital and Health Services increased at a more modest and sustainable average of about 5 per cent a year.
Today, these fundamental differences in approach are accepted even by Bligh’s Labor successors. In the Palaszczuk government’s Queensland Health budget service delivery statement for 2014-15, it wrote that (under the LNP) these formerly alien concepts “have led to the generation of surpluses over the last three years while still delivering increased activity across the system. This control (they promise) will be maintained over the current financial year.”
That’s it in a nutshell; and it’s rare praise indeed to be so endorsed by my Labor opponents.
Principles of better health management, productivity and efficiency (the simple respect for taxpayers’ scarce dollars) delivered three years of stability with modest budget increases and surpluses in every Queensland hospital and health service.
Any additional funds from the commonwealth to the states should come with serious accountability strings attached, otherwise more money will be spent to get lesser services for patients.
Maybe the commonwealth should take the lessons from Queensland and insist on full independent efficiency audits, demonstrating real benefits to patients, before the cash flows.
Lawrence Springborg is Queensland Opposition Leader. He was health minister for three years in the state’s Newman government.