Taking A Good Look At Mental Health In The Bush

Mount Isa is a sprawling mining town of some 22,000 people in remote, outback Queensland with a large fly-in fly-out workforce, low levels of schooling and a reputation for hard work. Access to many of the primary mental health care and community mental health care services is complicated and poorly integrated. Resources are stretched.   Continue reading

How To Defeat The Ice Epidemic In The Bush

Rural and regional Australia has a crystal methamphetamine problem.   Continue reading

Abbott Government In Trouble Without A Plan B

The Abbott government is in trouble. It has got its priorities wrong and has no plan for the everyday concerns of Australians.   Continue reading

GP Tax Mark II Bad For The Bush

Last week we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the new Health Minister, Susan Ley, walking away from Tony Abbott’s promise to cut the Medicare rebate for short consultations.   Continue reading

Bill Shorten: Condolence statement on MH17

- Parliament House, Canberra, 18 July 2014. Madam Speaker I rise to support the words of the Prime Minister – and I thank him for the conversations that we have had this morning. This news that we woke up to this morning is worse than shocking; it is debilitating, bewildering, with bewildering losses. Travelling at six miles height, this is unimaginable. This is a violation of the rules of civilisation. It is a tyrannical, wild act. And I appreciate that when I rang the Prime Minister this morning, he has been most forthcoming and, in a time when international events require one to put aside partisan issues,  I greatly appreciate it.   I acknowledge too the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and my colleague Tanya Plibersek, who have also been working on this. As this Parliament convenes, right now and throughout today there will be anxious families having their worst fears confirmed. 3 kilometres from the town of Grabove, near the Russian-Ukranian border, on a patch of disputed ground currently controlled by separatist terrorists, lies the scattered ruin of MH17.  Continue reading

Opinion piece: Government has dropped the ball on regional health

People living in rural and regional areas die up to seven years earlier than those living in major cities. This comes as a shock to many Australians.  Regional patients face a tough situation. There is a critical gap in their health services and outcomes. They pay more out of pocket. They wait longer for a diagnosis. They travel further for treatment. They die sooner than they need to. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) paints a bleak picture of rural and regional health in Australia today. They are more likely to have chronic disease like diabetes, melanoma and arthritis. They are more likely to be critically injured and between 1.3 – 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide. Despite this, per 100,000 people, regional patients have access to less than a third the number of physical and mental health specialists than those in major cities.   Continue reading

Culture Wars Return: Abbott vs the ABC

The campaign against the ABC is a Culture War we don’t need. It‘s not the role of any journalist or news agency to barrack for a particular team. It is certainly not the role of the ABC.  Over the 15 years that I’ve been dealing closely with the ABC, I’ve defend its independence and the right to report and broadcast the news as it sees fit – even when I’m the unwilling recipient of an ABC brickbat.   Continue reading

Anna Watson MP: Illawarra Infrastructure Fund could have been better for region

Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson today welcomed the funding of the Fowlers Road extension at Dapto as part of the $100 million Illawarra Infrastructure Fund but slammed the rejection of the application which could have provided football with a home at West Dapto. "The success of this Fowlers Road extension project will help to provide much needed improved traffic access throughout the Dapto CBD and West Dapto. "The funding of the Fowlers Road extension remedies the stupid decision of the former Wollongong City Council Administrators to knock this road project off during the last term of the former Council. Continue reading

Senator Penny Wong: TPP must not trade away Australia's national interest

Next week trade ministers will meet in Singapore in an attempt to finalise negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The TPP is a critical test for new Trade Minister Andrew Robb and will demonstrate whether he can deliver a deal with real benefits to Australia’s economy. Labor recognises that reducing barriers to trade can boost our economic growth, create more competitive industries and give consumers access to a wider range of goods and services at lower prices. The pursuit of these objectives drives Labor’s support for a more open global trading system. Labor’s achievements in office include the establishment of the Cairns Group as a vehicle to promote our interests in multilateral trade negotiations, and the establishment of the Asia Pacific Co-operation Forum to strengthen our economic and political ties with the region. Continue reading

Why Chris Pyne's Gonski backflip hurts NSW kids more

Is Gonski Gone-ski? This is what thousands of teachers, parents and students are asking this week.  The announcement by Education Minister Chris Pyne that he would not honour his election promise on school funding has added fuel to a well stoked policy fire.  It’s also throwing school planning into disarray.  As one Principal told me “last week we were planning our classes for next year. What we could do with our high needs kids what intensive programs we could run.  This week we don’t even know how much money we will have.” As far as broken promises go – this is a whopper.  When wooing voters pre-election, the PM said the Coalition is “on a unity ticket” with Labor on education funding.  His Education Minister Chris Pyne said they would “match Labor’s funding commitment dollar for dollar.” Apart from the politics - there were good reasons to make these commitments.  Gonski was the most extensive national review of school funding and performance in decades.  It found that our children are slipping behind other schools in the Asia Pacific region.  It found that the funding system was a mess and needed to be reformed.  It recommended that State and Federal Governments cooperate to significantly increase school funding – critically this should be based on student need. “Gonski” legislation was passed through Parliament.  Agreements were posted on public websites.  Funding arrangement’s were set out in the official Pre-election Financial Outlook. The agreements were up on the Government’s website. It was very much in the public eye.  Claims of “we didn’t know” are risible. This backflip matters more in NSW. The Gonski backslide is a double whammy for NSW students.  Here’s why – Continue reading