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                    [post_content] =>  
Chemist Paul Mavor with the first medicinal cannabis imports from Canada last month. Pic: supplied.

 

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon has criticised Tuesday’s senate vote, which makes it easier for terminally ill patients to buy unregistered medicinal cannabis from overseas, saying he fears the drug could end up in the wrong hands but cannabis experts have called his reaction unfounded.

The vote was led by Greens leader Richard Di Natale after he lost the same vote in May, but this time it won the support of Labor, One Nation and various crossbenchers after a procedural loophole allowed a re-vote.

Medicinal cannabis will now be classed as a category A drug on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) list, making it easier for doctors to prescribe the medication to terminally ill people and drastically reducing the time it takes for patients to get hold of it.

The senate vote also means terminally ill people can legally import the drug more easily from regulated overseas markets, provided they have a prescription. The first medicinal cannabis imports came into Australia in May from Canadian company CanniMed.

The Australian medicinal cannabis market is currently in its infancy after it became legal to cultivate, produce and manufacture medicinal cannabis products on October 30 2016. Good domestic product is probably 12 to 24 months away so securing an overseas supply is a necessary option for sick Australians.

Supply is not the only problem, draconian rules around prescription are too.

When the federal government legislated to make medicinal cannabis legal for some terminally ill patients last year, it also tightened up the conditions that had to be met before it could be prescribed.

The drug was previously classified as a category B drug under the special access scheme, which meant doctors had to get prior approval from the TGA, their state or territory health department and their hospital ethics committee or relevant association, before treating terminally ill patients, rather than just informing the TGA they intended to prescribe it.

It has obviously had an impact. Fairfax reported this week that only 133 people have been able to access medicinal cannabis since new laws came in.

But some doctors aren’t in favour of relaxing the rules.

Dr Gannon told Sky News he was ‘disappointed’ with the senate’s decision and said that giving patients access to unregistered medicinal cannabis products from overseas would knock doctors’ confidence in prescribing it. 

“You’ve already got a situation where doctors are querying exactly how effective medicinal cannabis is. If you in any way put any doubt in their minds about the safety, you're simply not going to see it prescribed by many doctors,” Dr Gannon said.

But he admitted the risks to patients were minimal.

“Certainly, in the palliative care setting, we're not worried about addiction and, to be honest, we're not too worried about major potential side effects. But we remain concerned about potential diversion into the general community.”

Dr Gannon said cannabis was still a major source of mental illness in the wider community and it was ‘absolutely essential’ any imports were safe.

“If cannabis was the panacea that the people who seem desperate to import it - if it really was that good, then it would be in liberal use across the entire medical system,” he said.

“We're excited about its potential in palliative care, we're excited about its potential when it comes to juvenile epilepsy, and forms of spasticity, but let's look for the evidence.”

His views echo those of federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who called the senate’s decision ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and argued that cannabis could end up in the pockets of criminals and out on the streets.

AMA’s fears unfounded, says expert

But medicinal cannabis expert Rhys Cohen, who works for the Australian subsidiary of Israeli medicinal cannabis company Cann10, called Dr Gannon’s statements contradictory and ‘completely unfounded’.

He said medicinal cannabis was unlikely to be diverted illegally, partly because it was already ‘incredibly cheap and incredibly accessible’ in Australia and medicinal cannabis was considerably more expensive.

He said only a few countries, including Israel, Canada and the Netherlands, legally exported cannabis and they all tightly controlled their product.

Companies needed export licenses and permits and Australian companies needed import licenses and permits. Prescriptions could still come only from specialist medical practitioners.

“The changes allow people who are very soon going to die to access it faster than previously,” Mr Cohen said. “We’re not talking about Joe Bloggs with a bad leg here but people on their death beds dying of cancer wanting to get relief from pain.

“The idea that there’s a chance they will sell it on the street is just ridiculous.”

While Dr Gannon has argued that cannabis should be treated the same as every other drug, operation or therapy Mr Cohen said it had always been treated very differently from other drugs.

“Any unregistered drug in the medicine world was accessible through special access A, except cannabis,” he said.

Mr Cohen said he thought the AMA’s misgivings were that doctors would be put under more pressure to prescribe medicinal cannabis, especially given pent up demand.

However, while he agreed these concerns were legitimate he said doctors were responsible for educating themselves about medicinal cannabis, especially when it had been proven to work so well for chronic pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
                    [post_title] => Doctors on a downer over medicinal cannabis imports
                    [post_excerpt] => Concerns unfounded, says Australian cannabis expert.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

By Associate Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, University of Western Australia
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is under real pressure for the first time since the 2016 election, as the government attempts to wedge Labor with a circuit-breaker budget.

Shorten used his budget-in-reply speech to appeal to middle Australia, putting forward an argument that Labor is the only party that can be trusted to deliver a fair go. He argued the government’s so-called “Labor-lite budget” is unfair, bringing benefits only to rich.

Since the election, it seems everything – including the polls – has gone Labor’s way. The Turnbull government has been plagued by infighting and its messages have failed to resonate with the electorate.

However, over the last few weeks – starting with changes to 457 visas and the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme – the Coalition has begun a new conversation with the electorate.

Shorten’s pitch

The 2017 budget positioned the government as more centrist. It contained several policy positions ordinarily associated with Labor. The government’s three-word slogan for the budget was “fairness, opportunity and security”. It has tried to position itself as a “doing government”, taking on good debt to invest in infrastructure, funding the NDIS into the future, and adopting measures from the Gonski schools funding plan. Shorten’s speech was framed around modern class politics. He claimed Labor is the only party that can be trusted to protect low-income workers, and look after the interests of the middle class in terms of Medicare, universities and schools. Shorten refuted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the budget is a fair one:
This prime minister of many words has learned a new one – fairness – and he’s saying it as often as he can. But repetition is no substitute for conviction … This isn’t a Labor budget – and it’s not a fair budget … Fairness isn’t measured by what you say – it’s revealed by what you do.
It is highly unlikely that this budget will be viewed as negatively as the 2014 budget. But Labor needs to convincingly discredit it to the point that the government cannot use it to help restore its standing in the eyes of voters. Labor will need to attack on two fronts. The first will be scare tactics. Voters will need to be convinced they are unnecessarily worse off under this budget. Shorten claimed:
There’s nothing fair about making middle-class and working-class Australians pay more, while millionaires and multinationals pay less.
He highlighted higher tax rates for low-income workers, as a result of the increase in the Medicare levy, as well as the traditional Liberal threat to Medicare. Shorten also posited schools would be much worse off due to the gap in promised funding between Labor and the government. The second line of attack will be providing an alternative set of policy options that voters view as more attractive than those put forward by the government.

What is Labor offering voters?

In his speech, Shorten promised a Labor government would remove the Medicare rebate freeze, rather than wait for indexation to begin in July 2020 – thereby reducing the cost of health care. Labor will also restore A$22 billion to the schools sector. As an alternative to the measures to assist first home buyers through a savings scheme, Shorten said Labor had a plan for affordable housing that would include the construction of 55,000 new homes over three years, and create 25,000 new jobs every year. He also noted Labor’s commitment to developing more public housing. In what is likely to prove a popular idea, Labor will seek to close the loopholes allowing multinational companies avoiding tax in Australia. Likewise, in an effort to halt tax avoidance by wealthy individuals, Labor plans to limit the amount an individual can deduct for the management of their tax affairs to A$3,000 per year. Shorten claimed that less than 1% of taxpayers would be affected, and that measure would save the budget A$1.3 billion over the medium term. Shorten continued to argue that a royal commission into the banking industry is required.

Where does Labor stand on individual budget items?

Labor needs time to review the proposed legislation resulting from the budget in order to determine what it is willing to support. But Shorten outlined Labor’s position on several measures.
  • It supports the additional Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. However, it wants to limit the levy to the top two tax brackets, so that only those earning more than $87,000 per year will be impacted.
  • It supports the bank levy – but simultaneously put pressure on the government, claiming it is responsible for stopping the banks from passing the cost onto customers.
  • It does not support the cuts to universities or the proposed increase in university fees for students.
  • It does not support the plan to allow first home buyers to use up to $30,000 in voluntary superannuation contributions. Shorten described the policy as “microscopic assistance”.

In this game, it’s the message that matters

This is a political budget, and so we should expect in the coming weeks that both parties will attempt to appeal to voters’ base instincts, rather than presenting considered arguments for or against policies. Thus, the government is focusing on forcing greedy banks to “pay their fair share”, secure in the knowledge that former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as head of the Australian Bankers’ Association, is unlikely to be able to cut through the bank-bashing mentality of the average Australian voter. Likewise, Shorten will campaign hard on the natural end of the temporary budget repair levy, which was introduced in the 2014 budget. He is claiming this is a tax cut for the rich at the same time as the government is making everyday Australians pay more tax through a higher Medicare levy.

Interesting times ahead

Shorten is right: this budget is about trust. The government and the opposition both need to convince average working and middle class voters that their policies will provide Australians with the best outcome. In some ways, this is politics as usual. But, with the polls leaning to Labor and voters’ faith in the government’s ability to deliver low, the stakes seem higher than normal – especially as voters are presented with two positions not as divergent as they have been in recent years.   This story first appeared in The Conversation.  [post_title] => Shorten fights on fairness in budget reply, but will it be enough? [post_excerpt] => Labor's lines of attack. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => shorten-fights-fairness-budget-reply-will-enough [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:54:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:54:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27102 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27082 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-09 11:16:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:16:39 [post_content] =>     Labor’s most recent televisual forays have landed Opposition Bill Mr Shorten and renegade senator Sam Mr Dastyari in hot water with some voters. A shiny-suited Mr Shorten fronted a television ad previewed on 9NEWS on Sunday night, shown only in Queensland and appearing to pander to Pauline Hanson’s support base or persuade swinging voters. It featured the Trumpian slogan “Australia First” and attacked 457 visas and overseas workers. But trouble erupted after viewers noticed that of the twelve people in the ad supposed to represent Australian workers and variously decked out as tradies, admin staff and medics, only one was not white: an Asian women. Mr Shorten says in the ad: “A Shorten Labor government will build Australian first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first”, echoing the ads rather sinister undertones of the White Australia policy from the 1950s and 60s. Labor copped it on on social media yesterday with many people levelling accusations of racism, which Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen conceded was “appalling” but underlined it was a “rare misstep” for the Opposition leader on Lateline last night. One Facebook commentator said: “In this increasingly divisive "us & them" world, political campaigns like this peddle peoples' prejudices when they should be challenging them.” Another added:  “Is he trying Trump’s strategy? Attempting to appeal to the overwhelming number of redneck Australian voters that deep down really believe they are 'owed' something for having lighter skin.” However, others waded in to defend the Labor leader on social media. One person said: “Everyone tries their best to be offended these days, they call anyone who disagrees with them 'racist' so the word has lost all credibility now, and when something is genuinely 'racist' everyone ignores it, it doesn't take much to cause a race storm in a teacup these days, you can thank political correctness for that.” Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese called the ad “a shocker” and said “it should never have been produced and it should never have been shown”, intensifying speculation that he was jostling for the party leadership, a ballot he lost against Mr Shorten in 2013. It later emerged that it was highly probable that Mr Shorten’s office had seen and approved the ad before it aired. Mr Shorten himself would not confirm or deny this but called criticisms of the ad “a fair cop”. Meanwhile, Senator Sam Mr Dastyari caused his own social media storm after he hopped on board a Bill Shorten campaign bus to travel to three of Sydney’s outer suburbs and bemoan what $1 million buys in the city’s overheated real estate market. In the short film, which went viral, Mr Dastyari holds up examples of seemingly undesirable homes or locations which nevertheless attract a million buck price tag. He says: “Everyone loves talking about house prices but what does a million dollars in Sydney actually buy you? Not much.” In the northwest suburb of Ryde he stands outside a house and says:  “Immaculately kept, as it’s been told, and on one of the busiest roads in Sydney, to boot. “And you know if it’s got security shutters you’re onto a good thing”. The three-bed home on Lane Cove Road sold at auction for $1.3 million last weekend. The film then cuts to a vacant block in Toongabbie. “People like to talk about how a generation of young people are being picky. We are an hour and 20 away in peak-hour traffic from the CBD of Sydney and all a million bucks will buy you is essentially a block of land across the road from not only a power station but also the train line.” A scene filmed in Northmead is just as bleak, as Mr Dastyari sits atop a pile of furniture left out for kerbside collection to deliver his next tirade. "This is what a million dollars will buy you in Northmead but it's ok because it's described as having a functional kitchen. For a f---ing million dollars you'd like to think the kitchen would work," he says, before piling old furniture into the campaign bus. "If you gotta save a million bucks, you gotta be prepared to be a little bit frugal.” He goes on to calculate that a $1 million mortgage for a modest Sydney home would mean $1050 a week in repayments at today’s interest rates and if these went up by one per cent repayments would increase to $1200. But the video led to some viewers accusing him of snobbery and of ridiculing people’s houses while others criticised him for not offering a solution to the problem. “Seriously, imagine if that was your house and some halfwit stood outside it critiquing what you'd worked your whole life for,” said one. “This is offensive. Running around disrespecting peoples’ homes. And who hasn't salvaged furniture from the street? @samMr Dastyari is a snob” said another. However, others praised him for highlighting the affordable housing problem. “Sam, it's about time someone said the truth, the real estate agents have not only auctioned our homes to get higher prices, but they've auctioned our dignity away, and you're bloody right, a million dollar house should have a fully functioning … EVERYTHING… you said what we've all thought.” Mr Dastyari said that it was never his attention to upset anyone but to shine a spotlight on housing affordability. “If it takes me swearing on Facebook to draw attention to housing affordability, then I welcome it,” he told news.com.au. “It was never my intention to offend anyone,” he said. “It was only my intention to highlight how obscene house prices in Sydney have become.” Mr Bowen made reference to Mr Dastyari’s “edgy communication style” on Lateline last night but did not criticise the video. [post_title] => Labor’s adventures in TV land: Shorten’s 'white Australia', Dastyari’s $1m house hunt [post_excerpt] => Accusations of racism and snobbery. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => labors-adventures-tvland-shortens-white-australia-ad-dastyaris-1m-house-hunt [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 14:42:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 04:42:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27082 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26875 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-11 10:29:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-11 00:29:17 [post_content] =>   Election result reprieve for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Pic: YouTube.    The NSW Liberals held onto Manly and North Shore in the state by-elections, despite serious swings against it, while Paralympian basketball player Liesl Tesch won Gosford and extended Labor’s lead to become the state’s first MP in a wheelchair. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be relieved that she has made it through her first election test since former Premier Mike Baird quit in January and comforted that her party was able to hold on to what were previously considered safe seats. Ms Berejiklian would have been haunted by fears of a repeat of the Orange by-election upset last November when the Shooters and Fishers toppled the Nationals candidate but in the end she was spared the indignity. The Premier had admitted she was braced for 'huge swings' against the government but added that sometimes voted just needed to vent.   Liberal James Griffin retained Mike Baird’s old seat of Manly, albeit with a primary vote swing of 24.7 per cent swing against him, while Felicity Wilson took ex-NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s former North Shore seat, where the swing was 15.4 per cent against the government. Some pundits had been predicting that North Shore could fall to Independent Carolyn Corrigan and cause Ms Berejiklian a major embarrassment but it was never transpired. Pressure had been mounting on the Liberals in the weeks leading up to the by-elections, with Mr Griffin and Ms Wilson both mired in controversy. A company Mr Griffin co-founded was accused of trading while insolvent and Ms Wilson was caught exaggerating how long she had lived on the North on her statutory declaration and nomination form. She later slipped up on social media, claiming that she had cast her first ever vote for John Howard in Bennelong in 2001. Fairfax countered her claim by saying she lived in Marrickville at the time, in the Grayndler electorate, and could not have done so. Ms Berejiklian would have been expected a backlash against her government, at least partly made up of those disaffected by transport problems, overcrowded schools, forced council mergers, greyhound racing and NSW hospital scandals. The Premier will be preparing in earnest for the next state elections in 2019 when voters may be more eager to punish the incumbent government after eight years in office.  It was good news for Labor in the Central Coast seat of Gosford as Liesl Tesch and widened the party’s margin in what had been the state’s most precarious seat with a 14 per cent swing. Labor MP Kathy Smith, who retired due to ill health earlier this year, beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in the 2015 Gosford election by only 203 votes. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Ms Berejiklian should take responsibility for the major swings against the Liberals, which he said were more than 25 per cent in some polling booths. “In November the voters in three seats said the Government should change – it changed Premier but it didn’t change direction. Today voters in three different seats told the Government again it needs to change direction – it is time for Ms Berejiklian to start listening," Mr Foley said.  He praised Ms Tesch and said she had fought a strong campaign. “This is a great victory for the Central Coast. Liesl is a fighter. She has been a success at everything she has attempted in life and I know she will be a great representative for the people of the Central Coast when she takes up her position in the State Parliament.” [post_title] => Relief for Berejiklian in state by-elections despite serious swings [post_excerpt] => Labor keeps Gosford, increases margin. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => relief-berejiklian-state-elections-despite-serious-swings-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-11 11:03:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 01:03:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26875 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26847 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-07 10:22:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-07 00:22:17 [post_content] =>   If the bookies are right, Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan could cause a huge upset in tomorrow’s (Saturday) North Shore by-election and topple the Liberals right where it hurts: in its leafy Sydney heartland. As the contest hots up in former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s North Shore seat, online bookmaker Sportsbet.com.au has revealed that a flurry of late bets on Ms Corrigan’s chances have made the Libs look wobbly in a seat they hold by a 30.4 per cent margin. Will Byrne from Sportsbet.com.au said there was strong support for Ms Corrigan, whose odds had shortened significantly in the run-up to the election from $4.00 into $2.50, suggesting that Saturday’s state  by-election will be a close run thing. “The Liberals looked safe in North Shore but there’s been some money in the past few days to suggest the race is not run there yet,” Mr Byrne said. The North Shore electorate takes in the local government areas of Mosman and North Sydney and both councils have stridently resisted the state government’s attempts to merge them with their neighbours. Ms Corrigan is a former president of anti-forced council amalgamation community group Save Our Councils and she will be hoping the community’s rebellious sentiment continues to the ballot box. Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan   But all is not lost for Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson, a former president of the NSW Liberal Women's Council, and she is still odds on to win at $1.50. Ms Wilson came under fire earlier this week when Fairfax published a story rubbishing her claims that she had lived in the lower North Shore electorate – in Neutral Bay, Waverton and Wollstonecraft - for more than a decade. Electoral records showed she had lived in several addresses outside the electorate at various points during five of those twelve years. Ms Wilson later apologised, calling it an ‘unintentional error’. She was also criticised for claiming that the first ever vote she cast was for John Howard in Bennelong in 2001. Fairfax countered her claim by saying she lived in Marrickville, in the Grayndler electorate, at the time and could not have done so. She later admitted she had made a mistake. But whether this controversy is serious enough to cruel Ms Wilson’s chances is another matter. North Shore has been considered a very safe blue ribbon Liberal seat since 1991, although it has fallen to independents in the past, most notably to Independent North Sydney Mayor Ted Mack. Interestingly, it is not a two horse race. In fact, the Greens have outpolled Labor to come second in the last three state elections. However, Sportsbet has Greens candidate Justin Alick at $34, with a Donald Trump-style shock needed for a payout. Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Sportsbet will be hoping it makes a better fist of predicting the North Shore result than it did when Donald Trump scored a shock victory in the US election in November last year when the company reportedly paid out $11 million to 25,000 punters who picked Trump for POTUS. This weekend also sees two other NSW by-elections, former NSW Premier Mike Baird’s seat of Manly and Gosford, which was vacated by Labor MP Kathy Smith when she retired due to ill health earlier this year. The bookies have both seats as clear wins: one for Labor and one for the Liberals. Manly is tipped to go to the Liberals ($1.10) and Gosford to Labor ($1.05), despite Gosford being the state’s most marginal seat and held by Labor by only 0.2 per cent. Ms Smith narrowly beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in 2015 by only 203 votes. Gosford is another seat where council mergers could affect the result and the forced amalgamation between Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils could tip the balance against the Liberals. Labor’s candidate for Gosford is Liesl Tesch, an Australian wheelchair basketball player and sailor, while the Liberals are fielding organ donation campaigner and office manager Jilly Pilon.   What are the odds? North Shore by-election $1.50   Liberal             $2.50   Independent (Carolyn Corrigan) $16      Independent (Ian Mutton)      $16      Independent (Harry Fine)       $34      Green $51      Animal Justice Party $51      Voluntary Euthanasia $101    Christian Democrats   Gosford by-election $1.05   Labor   $8.50   Liberal $16      Shooters, Fishers and Farmers $51      Animal Justice Party    $51      Christian Democrats $101    Green   Manly by-election $1.10   Liberal   $7.50   Independent (Ron Delezio) $9.00   Independent (Kathryn Ridge) $11      Green $21      Independent (running for One Nation)          $21      Independent (John Cook) $21      Independent (Haris Jackman)             $26      Independent (Brian Clare)      $26      Independent (Victor Waterson) $51      Voluntary Euthanasia (Kerry Bromson)          $51      Animal Justice (Ellie Robertson)         $51      Christian Democrats $51      Independent (James Mathison) [post_title] => Bookies shorten odds for independent to win North Shore by-election [post_excerpt] => Will the Libs topple in leafy la-la land? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bookies-shorten-odds-independent-win-north-shore-election [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-12 08:41:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 22:41:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26847 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26841 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-04-06 15:28:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-06 05:28:21 [post_content] =>

Will the West Gate Tunnel ‘ban trucks’?

  Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), representing companies responsible for the majority of container transport to and from the Port of Melbourne, has called on the Andrews’ Victorian Labor Government to help container transport operators get a ‘fair go’ in the toll pricing to use the West Gate Tunnel. CTAA was responding to the announcements by the Victorian Premier that a consortium headlined by John Holland and CPB Contractors has been selected to build the West Gate Tunnel Project (formally known as the Western Distributor Project) to commence in early 2018, and that once completed, there would be 24/7 ‘bans’ on trucks on roads in the inner west of Melbourne. CTAA director Neil Chambers said: “Not surprisingly, container transport operators in the inner and outer Western industrial suburbs undertake numerous truck trips to and from the Port of Melbourne during the day, at night and on weekends, to service vital container trade volumes through the biggest container port in Australia.” “The original government business case called for Transurban to consider a reduced toll price for transport operators undertaking these shuttle operations, as well as suitable trip caps, and the favourable treatment of Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles.”   Read more here.  This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics News. [post_title] => Will the West Gate Tunnel ‘ban trucks’? [post_excerpt] => 24/7 'ban' on trucks in inner western Melbourne. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => will-west-gate-tunnel-ban-trucks [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-06 15:28:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-06 05:28:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26841 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26630 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-24 10:06:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-23 23:06:59 [post_content] =>

 

The National Retail Association (NRA) has warned that Labor’s private members bill to block the Fair Work Commission’s reduction in Sunday penalty rates, sets a dangerous precedent for all independent ruling bodies across the nation.NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said that leveraging political interests to undermine the independence of the industrial relations system should sound alarm bells for everyone, regardless of their stance on penalty rates. “The Commission was created by the Labor Party so that the industrial relations system would be fair, equitable, and free from political interest,” Lamb said. “And yet, it’s now shaping up to be an election issue, amid a worrying campaign designed to undermine the FWC’s purpose and due process, not to mention the three years of submissions, hearings and deliberations it took to come to this decision. While we’d fully anticipated this issue would be politicised, the introduction of a private members bill to undermine the independence of the system, to quash the rule of law, is taking this issue far beyond mere political rhetoric,” she said.     Dominique Lamb.    Read more here.
This story first appeared in Appliance Retailer. [post_title] => Labor's penalty rate fight sets dangerous precedent [post_excerpt] => Undermines Fair Work, says retail peak body. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => labors-penalty-rate-fight-sets-dangerous-precedent-says-retail-peak-body [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-24 14:22:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-24 03:22:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26630 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26323 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-02-24 10:13:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-23 23:13:02 [post_content] =>   By Ben Hagemann After 39 days of hearing, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) yesterday (Thursday) handed down a decision that will see Sunday penalty rates cut from double-time to time-and-a-half pay. The new move will ease overhead pressures on small business retailers who employ staff on weekends but it has enraged unions, the Greens and Labor who say it will create a 'whole new class of the working poor'. The full bench of the FWC has not changed Saturday penalty rates, stating it was satisfied that the existing Saturday penalty rates achieve the modern award’s objective to provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net. The Full Bench also stated it did not reduce Sunday penalty rates to the same level as Saturday penalty rates, noting that for many people Sundays had a higher level of “disutility” than Saturday work, albeit that the extent of that disutility was significantly lower than for periods further in the past. It was viewed as implicit in the claims advanced by most of the employer interests that “they accepted the proposition that the disutility associated with Sunday work is higher than the disutility associated with Saturday work”.   Read more here.   This story first appeared in C&I Week.  [post_title] => Fair Work Commission slashes Sunday penalty rates: Employers jubilant, workers and unions furious [post_excerpt] => Double time to time-and-a-half. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sunday-penalty-rates-cut-employers-jubilant-unions-furious [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-24 10:13:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-23 23:13:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26323 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26270 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-02-17 10:38:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-16 23:38:57 [post_content] =>
      By Deborah Jackson, Editor National Liquor News A proposal to ban alcohol advertising on public transport in Western Australia has been slammed by the alcohol industry. The Western Australia Labor party has announced that a future Labor Government would honour current advertising contracts but would ban all new advertising of alcohol-related products on public transport. It is understood that the Liberal-led Government does not support a ban because advertising on public transport generates about $7 million in revenue per year of which about 10 per cent is generated through alcohol-related advertising, and all advertising on public assets must comply with industry advertising standards, which is the case in WA. Fergus Taylor, the Executive Director of Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) said that the Labor Government's stance is poorly thought out and is not supported by credible research or data. “This is a poor policy decision taken on the run without industry consultation and isn’t even supported by official Government data,” Taylor said. “The government has made a sensible decision to reject this proposal after a more thorough assessment of the evidence.   Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => Proposed booze advertising ban on WA public transport [post_excerpt] => But $7m revenue at stake. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => booze-ban-wa-public-transport [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-17 11:39:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-17 00:39:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26270 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26201 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-09 11:57:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-09 00:57:44 [post_content] =>   Human Services Minister Alan Tudge with PM Malcolm Turnbull     The federal government’s contentious $4 billion Centrelink debt clawback will face scrutiny after Labor and the Greens succeeded in their push for a senate inquiry. The Senate Community Affairs References Committee will examine the flawed data matching process – which Human Services Minister Alan Tudge earlier revealed had an error rate of 20 per cent – and look at the Department’s response to complaints about it. Another key task of the inquiry will be to assess the impact of the fraud crackdown on benefit recipients, including students, families, seniors, jobseekers and people with disabilities, some of which has been detailed in personal stories on sites such as Get Up! Senators will also look at how the Department managed the Online Compliance Intervention (OCI), what kind of risk assessment was done and whether DHS threw enough resources at it, as well as the impact on staff of increased customer aggression generated by it. The Committee’s full terms of reference are broad and include:
  • The error rates of debt notices, when these were identified and action taken to remedy this
  • Centrelink’s complaints and review process - The government’s response to concerns raised by affected individuals, Centrelink and departmental staff, community groups and parliamentarians
  • How well DHS staff and systems have coped with higher levels of demand since the compliance program began
  • The adequacy of data matching Centrelink and ATO information
  • Contracts related to the debt collection system and how these were awarded
  • Whether the debt recovery scheme complies with debt collection guidelines and Australian privacy and consumer laws
  • How well the department managed the workload of the OCI, including the impact of the roll out and subsequent complaints on staff; staff training; the adequacy of IT and telephone systems; what risk analysis was done and feedback from staff from system testing
  • The impact of the debt collection process on the elderly, job seekers, students, families and people with disabilities
  • The administration and management of customers’ records by Centrelink
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is hoping that the inquiry reveals “the full extent of dysfunction with the policy and more broadly in the Department of Human Services (DHS)”. The union has spent three years attempting to renegotiate a new enterprise agreement for Human Services’ staff with little success. Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support workers will commence six days of targeted industrial action on February 13th, 15th, 17th, 20th, 22nd and 24th in protest at the robo-debt crisis and the stalled Australian Public Service enterprise bargaining process. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the scheme had so far resulted in “tens of thousands of Australians” being wrongly hounded for money they either didn’t owe. “Our members working in Centrelink are looking forward to this inquiry so they can shine a light on what’s caused this shameful robo-debt crisis and what should be done from here,” Ms Flood said. “This debt program has been terrible for the more than 200,000 ordinary Australians who’ve been sent letters, but also for hardworking staff.” Ms Flood said the DHS had done a hatchet job on its staff, rather than face its own shortcomings. “The Department of Human Services has been far more concerned with gagging its staff and fudging its performance indicators than fixing this mess, so this is an important opportunity for staff to speak openly about how things have gone so wrong and their suggestions to maintain the integrity of our welfare system without the unnecessary collateral damage.” Claims have surfaced from staff that they were told to direct anxious claimants querying their debt away from Centrelink offices and online instead. “The culture has changed from trying to assist customers to avoiding assisting customers,” said one.  “Customers are disgruntled and desperate for guidance, staff are disgruntled and stressed.” Another staff member alleged: “It is interesting that the official line is still that face-to-face service is available as requested. Good luck with that. Of course, should there be a friend of the manager or an MP request, they do get the service that should be provided to every customer." But Mr Tudge has repeatedly denied there are problems with the system. He told 2GB’s Warren Moore on January 26 that “in most cases there is a very clear overpayment, and most people do have to pay that money back.” DHS spokesperson Hank Jongen has laid the blame for system failure on staff, saying some staff “do not welcome technology driven change” and are only happy when they can micro manage benefit claims. Ms Flood said she hoped senators would look at the wider problems in the agency and the impact that was having on staff and customers.  “Our members were warning for months that this automated debt system would not work, but this is an agency where the bosses don’t listen to their staff. The situation has highlighted the dysfunctional workplace culture across this agency, and the damage caused by years of budget cuts and the 5,000 jobs that have been slashed.” The Greens spokesperson on community issue Senator Rachel Siewert labelled the government’s automated debt recovery system “a disaster” and said the inquiry would be uncomfortable for a government who refused to back down or explain. “The inquiry will enable those who have been affected to have a voice and to tell us how they have been affected,” Ms Siewert said. “The lack of human oversight, the onus of proof being on the recipient, the catalogue of experiences by struggling Australians who have been told they have a debt when they do not, the failing infrastructure that means people can’t get through to Centrelink on the phone and the website, all of this must be explained now in a senate hearing.” She said no stone would go unturned. “This inquiry will assess the impact on Australians, and how much capacity was given to Centrelink services to cope with the program, we will look at advice given to Centrelink staff, how many debt notices were in error. I hope this provides answers to thousands of struggling Australians”. The committee is due to report on May 10. A deadline for submissions has not yet been set. [post_title] => Centrelink robo-debt nightmare scrutinised by the Senate: Here's what they'll look at [post_excerpt] => Full terms of reference revealed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => centrelink-robo-debt-nightmare-scrutinised-senate-heres-theyl [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-09 16:16:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-09 05:16:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26201 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26143 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-01 16:32:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-01 05:32:29 [post_content] => Labor's 2016 Mediscare TV and YouTube ad featuring Bob Hawke. Pic: YouTube     Labor has launched an online portal encouraging Australians to submit their experiences of Medicare and the impact of healthcare cuts, in a sign that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will continue to attack Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Medicare. Mr Shorten said the new portal – mymedicarestory.com - was established in response to complaints from Australians about ‘serious delays in Medicare processing’ under the Turnbull government. He said some people had reported a six-week delay getting a refund. “We know that because of this Government's cuts to vital services some people are falling through the cracks,” Mr Shorten said. “We want to know when that happens, so we can help ensure our health care system is strengthened now and in the future. “Labor will never stop fighting to protect Medicare from Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals. Today there is a clear message for Malcolm Turnbull -  give Medicare the best  birthday present by dropping the savage cuts to health which will see bulk billing drop, every Australian pay more and Medicare undermined.” Submissions using the portal are anonymous and can be confidential, if requested. Mr Shorten’s Mediscare message – warning voters that Mr Turnbull was trying to sell off or privatise Medicare through the back door - became central to Labor’s campaign during the 2016 federal election. The Opposition wheeled out former PM Bob Hawke to front the TV and YouTube advertising campaign, warning that the Liberals had set up “a Medicare privatisation taskforce” that would destroy the country’s healthcare system. Mr Shorten used the fact that the government was exploring outsourcing Medicare payments as leverage to suggest that the whole kit and caboodle could follow suit. Shortly afterwards, Mr Turnbull said Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, health, aged-care and related veterans’ payments would continue to be managed by the government and disbanded the $5 million Digital Payments Services Taskforce, which had been aided by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Department of Health is understood to have held market briefings with IT providers in Sydney and Melbourne last month in a bid to select potential partners to help replace Medicare’s 30-year-old system ahead of the Request For Proposal. [post_title] => Labor continues to attack Turnbull on Medicare with new online portal [post_excerpt] => Medicare still major battleground. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => labor-continues-to-attack-turnbull-on-medicare-with-new-online-portal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-03 09:56:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-02 22:56:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26143 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25721 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-02 10:13:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-01 23:13:41 [post_content] => emu-plains-correctional-centre-supplied Aerial view of Emu Plains Correctional Centre. Photo: Supplied.         NSW Premier Mike Baird’s plans to build a pop-up prison at Emu Plains housing 400 maximum security inmates in demountables will be built on some of the most dangerous flood plains in NSW, the Opposition has said. NSW Shadow Minister for Corrections Guy Zangari argued that the state government was aware that developing the Western Sydney site, which already houses a 200-bed women’s prison Emu Correctional Centre, would present “a risk to human life”. Mr Zangari said that a leaked letter from the Department of Planning to Penrith City Council showed that the government had stepped in to halt an earlier council proposal to develop land adjacent to the pop-up prison site. “The Baird government’s own planning department recognises that any further development in Emu Plains is dangerous, yet tough talking Minister for Corrections David Elliott is pushing ahead anyway,” Mr Zangari said. He said Penrith Council wanted to rezone land near the prison for 60 houses but the Department of Planning rejected the planning proposal. “Given the current evacuation capacity constraints and consequent risk to life, further development of flood prone land in Emu Plains is not supported,” said the Department’s letter to the council. “Consideration was given to the complex nature of flood evacuation around Emu Plains and that any development of this nature would adversely add to the regional evacuation capacity constraints.” But a Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman denied lives would be at risk. “Corrective Services NSW is aware of concerns about the proposed expansion, which includes a 240-bed facility for women and a facility for men,” she said. “If any risk could not be fully addressed then the project would not go ahead.” Hydrologists will ensure the proposal would have no impact on flooding and evacuation routes will be considered during site investigations. She said the prison’s expansion would follow state environmental planning legislation, which included exploring potential environmental impacts and taking into account geotechnical information, stormwater and waste management. The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley area is well documented as being vulnerable to flooding. The 2014 Hawkesbury-Nepean Flood Management Review Stage One said that during heavy rain water entered the floodplain much faster than it could escape. Flood waters can rise rapidly and create a ‘bathtub effect caused by natural choke points’. “A combination of large upstream catchments and narrow downstream sandstone gorges results in floodwaters backing up behind these natural ‘choke points’,” said the review. “Floodwaters rise rapidly causing significant flooding both in terms of area and depth.” But while the vulnerability of the area to flooding is established the likelihood of a catastrophic flood is up for debate. The last major one was in 1897 when flood waters hit 19.5 metres. Local flood plain and environmental expert Steven Molino told news.com in 2012 that there was a one in 200 chance of the 1867 flood occurring. "These things do happen. They don't always happen where there's people or houses, but when they do we have a major catastrophe,” Mr Molino said. The NSW government has also been criticised for a dearth of community consultation about the new prison. Mr Zangari said: “The government didn’t even have the decency to tell the community about its pop-up prison plans when they first emerged, now they’re learning that their lives are at risk too.” A NSW Corrections spokeswoman said Justice NSW would commence a targeted community consultation once the development of the concept plan was complete, which would be in the coming weeks. [post_title] => Pop-up prison could flood: Labor [post_excerpt] => Flood plain risk. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => emu-plains-pop-prison-flood-labor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-02 10:29:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-01 23:29:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25721 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25448 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-01 11:27:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-01 00:27:26 [post_content] =>  bill-mcarthur-jpg Shock exit: Local government champion Bill McArthur   One of Victoria’s longest serving councillors and the former president of the state’s peak body for councils has launched a broadside at Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews after his shock defeat at last week’s local council elections. Bill Mr McArthur spent 23 years as a Golden Plains councillor and almost eight years as President of Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) but failed to win a seat on council this time around. Mr McArthur, who has long been a champion for rural Victorian councils, said the Premier had dealt harshly with local councils by reinstating rate capping and continuing to shift the costs of providing services onto local government, casting councils as the villains when they could no longer continue to provide them. He said that withdrawing the Country Roads and Bridges Program, which gave smaller rural councils $1 million a year to maintain roads, had been a huge blow as had stopping small grants to small rural councils that had been used to fund community infrastructure. “They have made it very difficult because rural councils don’t have alternative ways of raising revenue,” Mr McArthur said. “They don’t have parking or opportunities for business units like the big metros do.” He said he had not even met Mr Andrews since he was elected Premier in November 2014. “I don’t believe he made the effort to engage with local government and he is the only Premier in my time that didn’t. I never had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with him.” But Mr McArthur would not be drawn further, “I prefer go out with a bit of dignity. We should let sleeping dogs lie.” Seventy-eight of the state’s 79 councils went to the polls last weekend, with the exception of Geelong, which is under administration after an Office of Local Government investigation found widespread bullying and intimidation.   Election headlines
  • Election of anti-mosque campaigner Julie Hoskins in Greater Bendigo
  • Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton elected in Moreland
  • Number of female councillors up by 4 per cent on 2012 elections. Fifteen councils now have a female majority
  • Greens do well in inner Melbourne councils such as Yarra, Port Phillip and Moreland but not so well elsewhere
  • Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle wins a record third term
  • Brimbank council runs elections after an eight-year hiatus following council sacking amid allegations of councillor corruption and misconduct
  • Two members of the sacked Brimbank Council re-elected: Margaret Guidice and Sam David.
  • Tony Briffa, reportedly the world’s first intersex mayor, re-elected to Hobsons Bay Council after resigning midterm in 2014
  • Shock exit of MAV President Bill McArthur
  Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Chief Executive Officer, Rob Spence said he was pleased that there had been a four per cent increase in women councillors. He said that 38 per cent, or 243 councillors, were women. “This is a great achievement. While we’ve got a way to go to reach equal gender representation around the councillor table, this is a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s also pleasing to see some fresh faces joining council ranks with 323 new councillors elected, joining 314 re-elected councillors. A total of 152 incumbent councillors were defeated and 138 councillors retired.” He said that all candidates should be proud of their efforts, even if they did not get elected. “It takes a lot of courage to put your hand up for a spot on council and it is highly competitive.” He also paid tribute to outgoing MAV President Mr McArthur, calling him a “dedicated and passionate councillor” and an effective MAV President. “Bill leaves a long legacy of accomplishments achieved during his time as MAV President. This includes the landmark signing of the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement, the establishment of MAV Procurement and Australia’s first municipal bonds, plus representing the sector at the Bushfires Royal Commission. “Under Bill’s leadership significant funding wins for the sector were also achieved including restoration of 50:50 funding partnerships for maternal and child health services, and a fairer planning fees regime.” He said that Mr McArthur had help secure other notable wins for local government, including doubling Roads to Recovery funding from the Commonwealth over several years and working at the national level as Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association. Meanwhile, the Herald Sun reported that there had been 250 complaints about the Victorian elections, most of them being objections to electoral material but one concerning bribery. Former Whittlesea Mayor John Fry was dramatically arrested in the lead-up to the elections, accused of defacing election posters in Bundoora. Mr Fry, who had complained about the election material of one of his rivals, Norm Kelly, was not re-elected. Government News contacted the Victorian Electoral Commission and was told that the number and nature of complaints could not yet been confirmed. The spokesperson said they would be referred for investigation to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate. Election statistics:
  • A total of 2135 candidates nominated for 637 vacancies across 78 municipalities (Geelong will not have an election until 2017)
  • 314 of 637 vacancies were filled by incumbent councillors, 323 were new councillors and 152 contesting councillors were defeated
  • 243 or 38.1 per cent of all councillors elected are women, up from 34 per cent in 2012
  • All 78 councils have women councillors
  • Fifteen councils have a majority of women councillors: Brimbank (7/11), Corangamite (5/7), Darebin (6/9), Greater Bendigo (5/9), Indigo (4/7), Macedon Ranges (5/9), Manningham (5/9), Maribyrnong (5/7), Melton (5/9), Moonee Valley (5/9), Murrindindi (5/7), Stonnington (5/9), Surf Coast (5/9), Whitehorse (6/10), Yarra (5/9).
  • 47 incumbent mayors were returned, 15 mayors retired, and 14 contesting mayors were defeated.
[post_title] => Ousted Victorian councillor launches broadside at Premier after council elections [post_excerpt] => Shock exits, election complaints, more women [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => departing-victorian-councillor-launches-broadside-premier-local-council-elections [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-01 11:28:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-01 00:28:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25448 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24524 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-07-25 19:04:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-25 09:04:04 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24525" align="alignnone" width="300"]Michelle Rowland_opt Michelle Rowland gets Communications. [/caption]   Labor leader Bill Shorten has revealed the Opposition’s full Shadow Ministry for the forthcoming Parliamentary term with a renewed emphasis on harnessing social equity issues to take the fight up to the Turnbull government. Following a campaign that was spearheaded by the so-called ‘Mediscare’ tactic, a reshuffle of key Shadow Cabinet positions has netted Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek the Education portfolio while her ally Penny Wong moves from Finance to Foreign Affairs and Trade. In terms of those who came up short, former Shadow Defence Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has pulled only Special Minister of State and Sports, a clear signal that Labor is muscling-up to try and take down government ministers on governance issues, a point Mr Shorten alluded to in his press conference. Rejecting suggestions that Senator Conroy – who is renowned for his verbal pugilism – had been was pushed over his stance on the South China Sea, Mr Shorten made it clear Parliament’s Committee process will be a renewed focus of attack. “As we all know he can be quite forensic and tough in terms of estimates performances, keeping the Government to account,” Mr Shorten said. “Stephen Conroy moving into Special Minister of State is not good news for slack and lazy Government ministers or for Government ministers try to cover up ineptitude or worse. This is not good news for the Government.” Conroy’s replacement in Shadow Defence is Richard Marles, While Catherine King retains Shadow Health, a striking cosmetic addition following the election campaign is the rebranding of the shadow portfolio to “Health and Medicare”, with Tony Zappia picking up a specific Medicare shadow assistant ministry to keep that fire alight. Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, didn’t make Shadow Cabinet but still scored well picking up the Human Services shadow ministry from Doug Cameron who gets expanded roles as Shadow for both Skills and Apprenticeships and Housing and Homelessness. As a seasoned minister and veteran of the NSW Parliament, Burney’s selection for the ‘issues rich’ Human Services portfolio – which persistently burned on talkback radio for Doug Cameron – will not give her opposite Alan Tudge or Social Services Minister Christian Porter any comfort. Another Turnbull Cabinet member, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, is also set for a bumpy ride after Michelle Rowland drew Shadow Communications. With a strong, frank and down-to-earth manner, Rowland’s ability to translate often technical issues around broadband into the plain English of outer suburbia is certain to hit hard. After a very public brawl within the left faction, socialist stalwart Kim Carr has kept Shadow Innovation, Industry, Science and Research despite a push to oust him from Shadow Cabinet. One of the numerical casualties of that stoush has been rising star and economist Andrew Leigh who remains outside Shadow Cabinet but gets Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Competition and Productivity, Charities and Not-for-Profits under Treasury and Shadow Minister for Trade in Services under Trade and Investment. After a stellar performance in the previous Parliamentary term, Leigh’s fate has again underscored the perils of hailing from the Australian Capital Territory that which carries little clout in terms of crucial factional numbers. Those keeping existing Shadow Cabinet posts and Ministries remain largely as anticipated. Chris Bowen retains Shadow Treasurer, Jenny Macklin retains Families and Social Services, Mark Butler keeps Climate Change, Anthony Albanese keeps Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and Mark Dreyfus keeps Attorney General with National Security added in. Click here for full list of the Labor Shadow Ministry. [post_title] => Shorten’s new Shadow Ministry: Who to watch [post_excerpt] => Welfare, Medicare & Broadband key fronts [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => who-to-watch-in-bill-shortens-shadow-ministry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-07-28 12:29:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-07-28 02:29:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24524 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27391 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-15 09:28:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-14 23:28:52 [post_content] =>   Chemist Paul Mavor with the first medicinal cannabis imports from Canada last month. Pic: supplied.   Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon has criticised Tuesday’s senate vote, which makes it easier for terminally ill patients to buy unregistered medicinal cannabis from overseas, saying he fears the drug could end up in the wrong hands but cannabis experts have called his reaction unfounded. The vote was led by Greens leader Richard Di Natale after he lost the same vote in May, but this time it won the support of Labor, One Nation and various crossbenchers after a procedural loophole allowed a re-vote. Medicinal cannabis will now be classed as a category A drug on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) list, making it easier for doctors to prescribe the medication to terminally ill people and drastically reducing the time it takes for patients to get hold of it. The senate vote also means terminally ill people can legally import the drug more easily from regulated overseas markets, provided they have a prescription. The first medicinal cannabis imports came into Australia in May from Canadian company CanniMed. The Australian medicinal cannabis market is currently in its infancy after it became legal to cultivate, produce and manufacture medicinal cannabis products on October 30 2016. Good domestic product is probably 12 to 24 months away so securing an overseas supply is a necessary option for sick Australians. Supply is not the only problem, draconian rules around prescription are too. When the federal government legislated to make medicinal cannabis legal for some terminally ill patients last year, it also tightened up the conditions that had to be met before it could be prescribed. The drug was previously classified as a category B drug under the special access scheme, which meant doctors had to get prior approval from the TGA, their state or territory health department and their hospital ethics committee or relevant association, before treating terminally ill patients, rather than just informing the TGA they intended to prescribe it. It has obviously had an impact. Fairfax reported this week that only 133 people have been able to access medicinal cannabis since new laws came in. But some doctors aren’t in favour of relaxing the rules. Dr Gannon told Sky News he was ‘disappointed’ with the senate’s decision and said that giving patients access to unregistered medicinal cannabis products from overseas would knock doctors’ confidence in prescribing it.  “You’ve already got a situation where doctors are querying exactly how effective medicinal cannabis is. If you in any way put any doubt in their minds about the safety, you're simply not going to see it prescribed by many doctors,” Dr Gannon said. But he admitted the risks to patients were minimal. “Certainly, in the palliative care setting, we're not worried about addiction and, to be honest, we're not too worried about major potential side effects. But we remain concerned about potential diversion into the general community.” Dr Gannon said cannabis was still a major source of mental illness in the wider community and it was ‘absolutely essential’ any imports were safe. “If cannabis was the panacea that the people who seem desperate to import it - if it really was that good, then it would be in liberal use across the entire medical system,” he said. “We're excited about its potential in palliative care, we're excited about its potential when it comes to juvenile epilepsy, and forms of spasticity, but let's look for the evidence.” His views echo those of federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who called the senate’s decision ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and argued that cannabis could end up in the pockets of criminals and out on the streets. AMA’s fears unfounded, says expert But medicinal cannabis expert Rhys Cohen, who works for the Australian subsidiary of Israeli medicinal cannabis company Cann10, called Dr Gannon’s statements contradictory and ‘completely unfounded’. He said medicinal cannabis was unlikely to be diverted illegally, partly because it was already ‘incredibly cheap and incredibly accessible’ in Australia and medicinal cannabis was considerably more expensive. He said only a few countries, including Israel, Canada and the Netherlands, legally exported cannabis and they all tightly controlled their product. Companies needed export licenses and permits and Australian companies needed import licenses and permits. Prescriptions could still come only from specialist medical practitioners. “The changes allow people who are very soon going to die to access it faster than previously,” Mr Cohen said. “We’re not talking about Joe Bloggs with a bad leg here but people on their death beds dying of cancer wanting to get relief from pain. “The idea that there’s a chance they will sell it on the street is just ridiculous.” While Dr Gannon has argued that cannabis should be treated the same as every other drug, operation or therapy Mr Cohen said it had always been treated very differently from other drugs. “Any unregistered drug in the medicine world was accessible through special access A, except cannabis,” he said. Mr Cohen said he thought the AMA’s misgivings were that doctors would be put under more pressure to prescribe medicinal cannabis, especially given pent up demand. However, while he agreed these concerns were legitimate he said doctors were responsible for educating themselves about medicinal cannabis, especially when it had been proven to work so well for chronic pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. [post_title] => Doctors on a downer over medicinal cannabis imports [post_excerpt] => Concerns unfounded, says Australian cannabis expert. 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