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Filter by November, 2012

Competitive constraints in private health insurance raised—but a broader debate needed

Competition in the private health insurance market is the focus of a recent discussion paper released by the independent regulator, the Private Health Insurance Administrative Council (PHIAC). The paper is the first prepared by the new Premiums and Competition Unit (PACU) which was established in the last budget to help foster competition in the Australian private health insurance market. The paper aims to ‘promote discussion and stimulate comment on the nature of markets and competition’ in private health insurance, with a view to feedback informing a final report due for release in early 2013.Private health insurance helps with the cost of privately provided health services, such as surger... Read more...

Pricing of cancer drugs in Australia - update on changes to the Senate Notice Paper

The proposed (weighted average) price cut of 76.83% for docetaxel, a drug used in the treatment of cancer, has sparked controversy. There have been claims that cost to patients will increase by about $100 and that cancer services will close as a result of this reduction. On Monday 26 November, Senator Xenophon moved a motion to disallow this price reduction but this has been withdrawn. It was replaced with a cross-party motion (Senator Xenophon, the Coalition, Australian Greens and DLP Senator Madigan) to be moved on 29 November (the last sitting day of the Parliamentary year). The Greens are now no longer part of the motion and this is reflected on the Notice Paper for 29 November (*1080, p... Read more...

Evidence linking sugary drinks to overweight and obesity grows

Evidence has been growing that the consumption of sugary drinks among children is contributing to our increasing rates of overweight and obesity. Sugary drinks include ones artificially sweetened with sugar, such as soft drinks and energy drinks, but also seemingly healthy drinks, such as fruit juice. Sugary drinks are sometimes described as offering ‘empty kilojoules’ because they provide plenty of calories but lack many essential nutrients. Two recent studies into the effect sugary drink consumption has on children's weight, add to a growing body of evidence linking them to weight gain. A recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported on both studies. In one trial, a ... Read more...

Priests, Penitents, Confidentiality and Child Sexual Abuse

In the light of Prime Minister Gillard’s announcement of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to the sexual abuse of children there has been a particular focus on the role of the ‘confessional seal’. The Roman Catholic practice whereby communications made in the confessional are treated as absolutely confidential has been hotly debated, in particular whether this doctrine forms an inappropriate impediment to the appropriate investigation and treatment of cases of abuse.The issue of evidence of child sexual abuse within the confessional seal arises in three different contexts: mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse, evidence to be given in legal proceedings, and evidence befo... Read more...

Economic growth and change in post GFC world: What’s hot and what’s cold in the Australian economy

Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, the Australian economy has experienced a period of slower, more uncertain growth than it did in the years leading up to the crisis. During the four years leading up to the GFC, Australia’s economy grew between three and four per cent a year, in inflation adjusted terms, with an annual average growth rate of 3.4 per cent. Since then, growth has been as low as 1.6 per cent in 2007—08, and only topped three per cent in 2011—12. The annual average growth rate for this later period was 2.4 per cent; a full percentage point lower than the earlier period. However, not all parts of the economy have performed equally over the las... Read more...

U.S. Presidential election results and the changing nature of political communication

Despite predictions of a down-to-the-wire election, the US presidential election on 6 November 2012 provided incumbent President Barack Obama (Dem) with a definitive win both in Electoral College votes and the National Popular Vote. When Associated Press called Florida, the last state to be finalised, for President Obama, it gave him the overwhelming lead of 332 Electoral College votes, well in advance of the 270 votes needed to win and of Governor Romney’s (Rep) 206 votes. A Democrat win was in contention in the lead-up to the election partly due to an electoral redistribution as a result of a national Census in 2010. This changed the Electoral College map, making Virginia, Iowa, Florida, ... Read more...

Mongolia at a crossroads: opportunities for enhanced engagement?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mongolia. On 13 November 2012, the Australian National University hosted (in collaboration with partner institutions) the inaugural Mongolia Update conference. It followed the official visit to Australia by Lieutenant General Tserendejidiin Byambajav, Chief of the General Staff of Mongolian Armed Forces on 8–10 November 2012 as part of the 15th Annual Chiefs of Defence Conference in Sydney.Background Mongolia is currently at a crossroads in its economic development. Australia’s relationship with Mongolia, a resource-rich transition economy that has experienced a mining boom in recent years, is expanding. World... Read more...

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (White Ribbon Day)—25 November 2012

In 1999, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (also marked in Australia as White Ribbon Day). Each year since then the UN has encouraged governments around the world to raise public awareness on this issue. In its anti-violence campaign fact sheet the UN points out that violence against women can take many forms (including physical, sexual, psychological and economic) and estimates that up to 70 per cent of the world’s women may experience violence in their lifetime. Certain women, such as some Indigenous women, women with disabilities, women living in poverty and women living in conflict zones... Read more...

A Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual assault

General awareness of the levels and different forms of child abuse and assault has heightened in recent years. In response to growing levels of concern, on 12 November 2012, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the Government’s intention to establish a Royal Commission specifically examining ‘institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia’. The terms of reference are yet to be determined, but the recently released consultation paper states that the Royal Commission will be asked to identify what can be done to prevent child abuse in the future, and where it does occur, that organisational responses are just and supportive of survivors. The pap... Read more...

China’s new leadership—personalities, process, politics, priorities

China’s eighteenth National Communist Party Congress has concluded with the unveiling of its new leadership team, the Politburo Standing Committee.  This is the fourth leadership transition since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949 and marks the shift to China’s ‘fifth generation’ of political leaders.  The transition takes place as China continues its ascendancy as a regional and global power and at the same time as the CCP is attempting to manage a range of social, economic, and political challenges.The personalitiesAt a press conference in Beijing on 15 November, following the week-long Party Congress, China’s new leadership was unveiled to its people and the world.  ... Read more...