EDITORIAL: Insurance impasse can’t go on

PRIVATE health insurance premiums, it seems, are about to surge another 7per cent, assuming the government rubber-stamps the latest increase being sought by Australia’s health funds.
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The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has already signalled that he can see no reason to intervene in a business decision by health funds, even if the proposed hike is triple the inflation rate.

According to the health insurers, the upward spiral in the cost of their product is due to the rising cost of claims in the health industry. One health fund executive, attempting to explain the problem, told reporters this week that a single member recently claimed more than $270,000 for ‘‘end-of-life’’ care.

That was an illustration of the increased costliness of care, as well as of the problem of an ageing population.

It’s an issue that policymakers seem to find intractable. When people are sick they’ll generally pay whatever they have to in order to get well, and that makes it easy for providers of treatment to charge high prices for their services.

Historically, when insurance hasn’t been available, medical bills have been a major cause of bankruptcy and imprisonment. And yet, when insurance is introduced into the picture, it can be argued that it gets even harder to restrain the earning expectations of practitioners and medical entrepreneurs.

Much is said about the rising cost of new technology and that’s valid, to a point. But even when technology makes particular treatments easier and cheaper, practitioners often show unwillingness to reduce their fees accordingly.

It might be suggested that the health insurance industry benefits from expensive care, since people – frightened of economic hardship due to illness – will find insurance attractive.

But the upward spiral of treatment costs and insurance premiums reaches a point at which more and more people are simply priced out of the market.

Australia’s Medicare system of universal taxpayer-funded health insurance provides a powerful backstop, enabling many to treat private insurance as an optional item, useful if income permits, but not essential.

But with Medicare under sustained assault from the private sector and its political allies, the nation is drifting towards the feared American model, where corporate medicine is immensely profitable but where millions of people simply can’t afford to be insured at all.

Cost control will be essential if Australia is to avoid that awful trap. That means more preventative care to help keep people well. It means closer scrutiny of treatments and products to ensure they represent value for money.

Private insurance and corporate medicine have their place, but their endlessly rising prices suggest that they should not be permitted the market dominance they appear to crave.

Casey Dellacqua off-key as teenager calls shots

OUTPLAYED: Casey Dellacqua during her second-round exit to Madison Keys on Thursday. Picture: Getty ImagesA PHILOSOPHICAL Casey Dellacqua is moving on after big-hitting Madison Keys dashed her hopes of another charge to the second week of the Australian Open.
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The 29th seed crashed to a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 second-round defeat at Melbourne Park on Thursday and admitted she had little say in the matter.

“The game’s always on Madison’s racquet,” Dellacqua said, rating the exciting American teenager’s groundstrokes as powerful as anyone on tour.

Dellacqua was on track after winning the opening set before the match turned in a twinkling early in the second.

Serving at game point in the second game of the set, Dellacqua watched on in dismay as a fluky backhand return flick from Keys landed in at a ridiculous angle for a winner.

Keys went on to win the game before finding her range with her deadly groundstrokes and going on to dominate.

One of the brightest young stars in women’s tennis, the 19-year-old world No.37 won 11 of the last 13 games to march into the third round in 87 minutes.

“She’s certainly a quality player. So I was very aware that her level was going to improve,” Dellacqua said.

“Few tough games early in that second which kind of went her way. But that definitely changed the momentum.

“Then once she got confident and once she got swinging, she’s pretty much top-10 material I would say.”

Dellacqua reached the fourth round for the second time last year and will take a rankings hit after her early exit. But the 29-year-old was not overly perturbed, promising to continue to work hard and improve.

“I mean, I’m obviously disappointed. You always want to win in Australia and you always want to continue to stay in the tournament as long as you can,” she said.

“But it’s early in the season. Last year I played a lot of really good girls week in, week out. That’s what I want.

“I had that last year. This year I’m going to get those opportunities, which will be great for me.”

Ajla Tomljanovic’s fleeting grand slam run as an Australian is also over.

The Zagreb-born, Florida-raised, Brisbane-based import bowed out of the Open earlier on Thursday with 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) second-round loss to American Varvara Lepchenko.

Tomljanovic was blown off court in the opening set before putting up a fight in the second, only for the 30th seed to race through the tie-breaker.


APS “work cultures” in the spotlight

Employment Minister Eric Abetz. Photo: Alex EllinghausenMore public service news      
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The Abbott government has ordered a sweeping review of Australia’s workplace laws which will examine the rights, entitlements and “long-held work cultures” of 160,000 federal public servants.

The issues papers for the inquiry into Australia’s workplace relations framework puts key public service conditions, some of which have been in place for decades, squarely on the table.

Five issues papers that set out the key areas of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry, the broadest review of IR laws of its kind in a generation, were published on Thursday.

The section of the document on public sector employment asks for submissions on ways to bring public service conditions more in line with those of workers in the private sector.

Protection under administrative law against unfair dismissal or other unjust punishments, available to public servants but not other workers, will come under scrutiny.

The existence of the office of the Australian Public Service’s Merit Protection Commissioner, to which government officials can appeal employment decisions, is also up for discussion.

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The Productivity Commission’s issues paper canvasses the National Commission of Audit, which called for the institution to be scrapped altogether altogether and for legislative amendments requiring public servants to be “highly productive”.

“Administrative law (for example, merits review) covers some key public sector employment issues, adding another layer of regulatory requirements and scope for appeal,” according to the Issue Paper.

Issues of “management control” in Australia’s public sector workplaces will also be examined by the inquiry as will their workplace cultures.

“Management control in the public sector is less clear-cut than in the private sector, for example, in relation to the dismissal of staff,” the document states.

“Reforms to the workplace relations system applying to the private sector may need to be accompanied by complementary measures (for example in administrative law, codes of conduct or long-held work cultures) to realise the benefits for the public sector.”

The comission notes that any changes of the Fair Work Act that come out of its inquiry might need specific provisions relating to public sector employees to make sure the full effects of reform were felt in federal, state and local government workplaces.

“The impacts of changes to the generic WR system may vary depending on whether workplaces are private or public,” the issues paper says.

“Reforms might need to take account of the fact that outputs and productivity improvements are less easily measured and consequently less transparent in the public sector.

“Accordingly, arrangements in the workplace relations system aimed at improving productivity in the private sector might not always be easily transferable to the public sector.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said he wanted all interested parties to make submissions to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry.

“This is a once in a generation review of the workplace relations system and I encourage all interested parties to take this important opportunity to participate, whether they are unions, employer groups, employers, individual employees or the unemployed,” Senator Abetz said today.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Bernard Tomic fires up

CONFIDENT: Bernard Tomic arrives for a training session at Melbourne Park on Thursday. Picture: Getty ImagesFIT, focused and firing, Bernard Tomic sees a “huge opportunity” to go deep in the Australian Open draw.
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Tomic squares off against fellow Australian Sam Groth in a blockbuster third-round clash at Melbourne Park on Friday, with the winner’s reward a rich one.

Likely to be standing between Tomic or Groth and a quarter-final spot will not be Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray, but Tomas Berdych.

Credentialed, yes, but the seventh-seeded Czech is a player Tomic has enjoyed success against, leaving the 22-year-old excited about his prospects of a career-best run at his home major.

“Two Australians playing in the third round, it doesn’t happen like this very often, so this is a huge opportunity for one of us to get into the fourth round,” Tomic said.

“I feel confident and stuff. I’m playing good. This is the tennis I’ve been waiting to play down here in Melbourne. I’m so happy. I’ll try to push for more wins.”

Tomic arrived in Melbourne full of confidence after after back-to-back quarter-final appearances in Brisbane and Sydney and says it’s no coincidence he’s playing some of the best tennis of his life after double hip surgery last year.

“I’ve managed to get so much more range of movement and flexibility,” he said.

Tomic’s vastly improved court coverage is now complementing his superb shot-making and one of the most underrated and effective serves in men’s tennis.

While Groth boasts more aces than any man left in the draw, Tomic is second on the list with only two fewer.

But no player is landing their first delivery more than Tomic and, as much as Groth will rely on his supersonic serve to spring an upset, so too will Tomic in a match where breaks will be gold.

“He’s going to be throwing a lot of stuff at me, coming forward, serve-volleying, and I have to focus on my serve,” Tomic said.

“Obviously I’m going to try to use my experience against Sam. But it’s going to be a tough match. I have to get ready. It’s not easy. He’s playing the tennis of his life.

“I’ll try to break him before it goes to the tie-breaker.”

As well as chasing a spot in the second week, Tomic is looking at the big picture, acutely aware of the chance to bag priceless rankings points in Melbourne.

“Last year, after losing first round, every match I play is a plus, every match I win here,” said the world No.66.

“Sooner or later I’m going to get inside the top 40, top 30.

“I just have to work hard and play the tennis I’m playing, beating guys inside the top 20.

“It’s going to be interesting after the Australian Open. The next five months I don’t have any points to defend. I can get inside the top 20 and then I can start choosing where I play.”

Toby Price: Life in the fast lane

ENDURANCE: Toby Price at Nobbys beach on Thursday. Picture: Simone De PeakWHAT Toby Price craved most at the Dakar Rally was to prove his versatility.
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To show his peers in off-road motorbike riding that he could succeed in world-class rally racing as well as enduro.

It was mission accomplished for the Aberglasslyn star, after his third-placing overall in the iconic Dakar on Sunday.

Not since Andy Haydon came third in his only Dakar in 1998, has an Australian reached the podium in what is considered the world’s most gruelling rally.

The 9000-kilometre race covers Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in some of the world’s toughest desert terrain.

Completing the race is itself a major accomplishment.

In the 36-year history of the race 28 competitors have died.

Price’s KTM Factory stablemate, Spaniard Marc Coma, recorded his fifth Dakar victory on Sunday when the final leg was completed in Baradero, Argentina.

Life for Price has certainly changed. On Tuesday the 27-year-old arrived home to begin trawling through a mass of emails and phone messages from well wishers, media and potential sponsors.

While four straight victories in the Hattah and Finke Desert races, four Australian Off-Road Endurance Championships and a second placing overall in November at the International Six Days Enduro has given Price a high profile within his sport, the Dakar has pushed his name into the mainstream.

On Friday, Price will head to Sydney for a round of television interviews.

“It’s definitely going to boost the profile and I hope it boosts the profile here in Australia for everyone else trying to do a similar thing,” Price told the Newcastle Herald.

“It’s good to see and hopefully it might end up landing me a good team ride overseas doing more rally events.

“I’ll keep my head down and charging forward and hopefully a few more good results will come and someone will eventually stand up and say we’ll give him a go.”

Despite the breakthrough success in the Dakar Rally, Price has no plans to ditch enduro racing.

On February 7, Price will launch into another Australian Enduro-X campaign with round one in Brisbane.

“It definitely puts a lot of strain on the body to be chopping and changing, but at the end of the day I want to be known as a well-rounded off-road rider and someone who can chop and change between things,” he said.

“Maybe not win races all the time, but be at the pointy end of the field putting pressure on the guys.”

Asked if the success at Dakar had proven to his peers and fans that he was a versatile world-class rider, Price said: “It was funny to actually hear when you’re at Dakar everyone was congratulating me on a six-day enduro podium position and saying, ‘Gosh I wish I could have done that’.

“I loved that because getting a six-day win is always hard work. To turn around and get a podium on a rally bike doing navigation, I think someone people have gone, ‘What he’s doing is pretty cool’.

“I can’t take it all for granted as it can be taken away pretty quick.”

The 13 stages of the Dakar Rally test the competitors both physically and mentally.

Surprisingly Price only lost five kilograms, but there were plenty of mentally challenging periods as he crossed the marathon stages in the Atacama Desert.

During those moments Price said the messages from supporters in the Hunter carried him through.

“It really does help a lot,” he said.

“You’re out in the desert for 600 to 700 kilometres a day, which works out to be 10 and 12 hours on the bike and you come down in a bit of a slump and are tired and you use that afternoon to be ready for the next day.

“Those messages definitely get your spirits back up again and makes you excited to do it all again.”

Gerri Wolfe’s hand in caesarean

‘I reached down and grabbed her … it was really cool’ Gerri Wolfe, 41, gave birth to her 10th and 11th children, Matilda and Violet, in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au
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Gerri Wolfe, 41, gave birth to her 10th and 11th children, Matilda and Violet, in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

Gerri Wolfe, 41, gave birth to her 10th and 11th children, Matilda and Violet, in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

Gerri Wolfe, 41, gave birth to her 10th and 11th children, Matilda and Violet, in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

Gerri Wolfe, 41, gave birth to her 10th and 11th children, Matilda and Violet, in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

Twins Matilda and Violet delivered in a very unusual procedure at John Hunter Hospital. Picture: Simone Harvey Photography/simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

TweetFacebookA WOMAN who partly delivered her own twins during a caesarean has encouraged other women to take control of their birthing experience.

Gerri Wolfe gave birth to Matilda and Violet through a “maternal-assisted caesarean” at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital on December 22.

Ms Wolfe described the moment she blindly reached her hand out to connect with the babies still partially inside her as “awesome”.

“They delivered Matilda up to her shoulders and I reached down and grabbed her,” Ms Wolfe said.

“I couldn’t see anything because I had a big belly in front of me so I was blind and just reaching out … it was really cool.

UNUSUAL: Gerri Wolfe delivers her twins herself via caesarean section at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. Pictures: Simone Harvey, simonesphotography整形美容医院m.au

“With Violet I needed a bit of a helping hand because she was upside down and I only had one hand free.”

Ms Wolfe, who now has 11 children, was driving to Sydney for an evening cricket match with the month-old twins and four of their siblings as she recalled the experience.

After several caesars that were “not good births” the 41-year-old from Umina Beach on the Central Coast was determined to deliver the twins naturally.

But when a complication arose that meant she would have to have a C-section after all Ms Wolfe told the “initially reluctant” obstetrician at the John Hunter about the delivery method she had read about online.

“I thought about what was important to me to make a surgical procedure more like a birth,” Ms Wolfe said. “I told the [obstetrician] if we’re going to do it we need to do it like this.”

Ms Wolfe doesn’t want to glamorise the delivery as a quirky trend, but said information on it should be available for women who wanted more involvement in their births.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-president Steve Robson said in his experience the delivery method was rare.

“It was in the women’s magazines 12 to 13 years ago then went out of vogue,” Mr Robson said. “It never really took off but maybe something like this could lead to a bit of a resurgence.”

COMPLETE: The Wolfe family. Twins Matilda and Violet take Gerri and Robert’s brood to 11.

Mr Robson said introducing an extra pair of arms to the sterile operating space created some logistic complexities but nothing that was insurmountable.

“If someone wanted to do that I’d have no problem providing the operating team were OK with it, and I suspect a lot of obstetricians wouldn’t mind,” Mr Robson said.

A spokesperson for John Hunter Hospital said it was not the first time it had performed this type of delivery.

William Spedding’s children back him over disappearance of William Tyrell

Police detectives with items for forensic testing. Picture: Nick MoirTHE children of a tradesman questioned over the disappearance of toddler William Tyrell say they love him and are certain he has done nothing wrong.
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Police searched the home and business of William Harrie Spedding, 63, after they learnt he had been hired to fix a washing machine at the mid-north coast house from which the three-year-old vanished on September 12.

The search of Mr Spedding’s home in Bonny Hills, which included draining the property’s septic tank and the excavation of some land, ended late on Wednesday. No charges have been laid.

Mr Spedding’s daughter-in-law, Aimy Spedding, told Fairfax Media his son and daughter supported him fully and believed he had nothing do with William’s disappearance from his grandmother’s home in Kendall.

Toddler, William Tyrell, missing since September 2014. Picture: NSW Police

‘‘We fully support him. We know that he has had nothing to do with this,’’ Mrs Spedding said. ‘‘We have spoken to him. Obviously he is very upset, his wife is devastated.

‘‘Basically we spoke to him and said ‘We love and have your back and we support you 100 per cent’.’’

Mrs Spedding said the washing machine repairman and his wife Margaret were distressed that their home had been raided by police and guarded for nearly 48 hours.

Cars, a single mattress and computer equipment were among a number of things seized and taken away for forensic examination.

Mrs Spedding’s comments came hours after police took down crime scene tape from around the couple’s semi-rural property.

A town looking for answers. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Police say their investigation is ‘‘active’’ and the search was a line of inquiry.

Mrs Spedding said her family understood police had to follow all possible leads but felt that draining a septic tank and digging up Mr Spedding’s backyard on Wednesday were ‘‘extreme’’.

‘‘The police have obviously got to follow up lines of inquiry but the way they have gone about it is extreme,’’ she said.

‘‘They are obviously between a rock and a hard place because they are being driven by the public for an answer.

‘‘We’ve found it completely confronting and concerning.’’

Police have described Mr Spedding as a person of interest who has been assisting them with their inquiries. Mrs Spedding said her father-in-law had five children and many grandchildren who adored him.

‘‘I was quite shocked when I first found out and I ended up leaving work,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s lovely, he’s a gentleman and for a father-in-law he is brilliant.’’

She said she had known the 63-year-old for 17 years and asked people not to jump to conclusions.

Police searched the Bonny Hills property on Tuesday 20 January. Picture: Nick Moir

‘‘What’s upset me the most is seeing nasty people on Facebook jumping to conclusions,’’ she said.

Family friend Colin said he spoke to Mr Spedding on Wednesday night and that he was coping but was highly distressed by the media attention.

Mr Spedding has been active on social media in recent months, writing posts about the search for William. On December 4, Mr Spedding shared the link of a photo of William, which had a caption underneath that read: ‘‘Today, somebody is keeping a secret. They got up this morning. Had breakfast. Realised they need to pick up some milk. Wasted time on Facebook. Made some calls. All the while maintaining a poker face.’’

He added a comment that read: ‘‘Don’t give up looking.’’

Homicide detectives said a number of properties had been searched in recent months in relation to the disappearance of William, and they would continue to follow up all possible leads.