Are We There Yet?

Last week saw a flurry of reports and debates about equity here in Australia. I liked the title of ANTaR’s Report Are We There Yet? It summarised very eloquently a number of issues raised during the week.
In the ANTaR Report ‘reconciliation’ is defined as:

the process through which non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians enter into a dialogue with one another with the intention of agreeing on ways in which to mitigate the disadvantage that Indigenous peoples experience. Core to this is the resetting of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples with a view to an agreement or settlement that rights the historical injustice (the settlement of Australia without consent) that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the First Australians, have experienced.

The report concludes that:

although some movement has been made in Government policy, particularly in relation to addressing Indigenous disadvantage, many of the Council’s recommendations have not been addressed or advanced. As a response to this, the report argues that a series of rights-based policies and actions be undertaken by all levels of government.

Equal Pay

Last week the Australian Government responded to the Australian Services Union’s test case on equal pay under the Fair Work Act for all workers in the social and community services sector. In a report on the ABC web site, Australian Services Union spokeswoman Linda White is reported as saying:

  • “I think what they (the Government) are realising is that equal pay is not just about concept, it is about actually paying women the money that their work should be valued at.”
  • “I think what they are grappling with is what is more important in this sector – paying social and community services workers who work with the most disadvantaged, or buying fighter jets – and they are looking at the competing interests in their budgets.”
  • “After probably over 20 years of under-funding the sector, it is all coming home to roost if our claim is successful.”
  • “I have never heard an employer yet who says that they agree to pay people more money … but if you believe in equal pay then it is going to cost more money,” she said.

Information about the ASU case can be found at this link.
How Many Hospital Beds?

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) published its Public Hospitals Report Card 2010 last week. In it is stated that:

There has been little improvement in public hospital capacity and performance despite significant extra Commonwealth funding as part of the National Healthcare Agreement and specific funding for an elective surgery ‘blitz’. Also from the AMA analysis, the Commonwealth Government’s additional funding of $150 million for an elective surgery ‘blitz’ did not get the desired results.
AMA President Dr Andrew Pesce said “the most telling finding of the report card is that there were only 11 new hospital beds opened across Australia during the 2008-09 reporting period.”

The Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon disputed the figures in the report.  She indicated that:

  • “The extra beds that the government has committed to were negotiated as part of the COAG deal reached in April, 10 months after the figures that this report is based upon.”
  • “They’re starting to be rolled out. So, for example, in Victoria there’s about 330 extra beds. In NSW there’s nearly 450 extra beds and a number of those are already now operational.”
  • “But none of that is picked up in the AMA report because their data goes back and is fixed in time at June 30 2009, 10 months before this historic agreement was reached.”

An Equitable Society?
Last week provided an opportunity to contemplate what kind of society we have and might want. Are We There Yet? is a question present in all family journeys. I wondered what possibilities there are for consensus in a society riven with continuous electioneering. It would be wonderful if adversarial politics could be replaced by the resolutions that make most family journeys possible. At some point fairness and mutual respect occurs!
Photo Credit
Firland Hospital Beds 1927


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