Trouble ahead on aged care
Rick Morton gives a valuable perspective on the crisis facing aged care (“Exclusive: Aged-care sector at risk of collapse”, October 5-11). It’s valuable as it shines a light on providers such as Bupa, considered too big to fail despite facing sanctions for substandard care; this even as we await the findings of the royal commission. However, it’s valuable, too, as it may give a clue to government thinking, always fond of free-market policy. It may not be a coincidence that Bupa is also pushing for “reforms” that would see its insurance arms privatise Medicare and take over funding health services. Having been caught providing inadequate aged care, Bupa now argues it needs to reform its business model by introducing American-style rationed-care systems that it would oversee. Sadly, the government may well try to take us down this privatised road to our lasting detriment should it succeed. Having seen off earlier attempts by the United States consortium Kaiser Permanente to introduce this failed system in the late 1990s, we must not be complacent at multinationals such as Bupa again attempting to erode healthcare for profit.
– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA
A failing system
Rick Morton summarised concisely a muddied subject: aged care and its conduct and viability through successive governments. In doing so he’s spotlighted the absurdities underlying the current structure, which has unfolded to the point where the federal government will have to “bail out” each successive failure in order to prevent severe harm to residents, as providers fall into insolvency from the absurd bond liabilities, among other pressures. All the while having paid out shareholder dividends – by driving down standards in care, food, safety – in an industry receiving 70 per cent of its revenue from the federal government. Both major sides, in government, have presided over this clusterfail. The only positive aspect to this is that the sovereign issuer of the Australian dollar is more than capable of averting disaster without causing cost blowouts, as the neoliberal true believers would have us swallow. But once disaster is averted, will they then take the logical step of removing this critical care of the often-dependent and vulnerable from a government-funded profit-gouging environment? Somehow I doubt it.
– Paul Keig, Wahroonga, NSW
No more ‘quiet Australians’
The more I think of the PM’s wishful image of the “quiet Australians”, the less it appeals. He yearns for a docile, obedient electorate, unable or unwilling to think for itself, prepared to accept whatever crumbs are served up by those in power. Your editorial (“Failure to govern”, October 5-11) confirms just how dismally this static model plays out in the limited aspirations and abysmal lack of action of the Morrison government. Shut your eyes: nothing to see here. Where is the contest of ideas and constructive debate, the celebration of cultural enrichment? Where is the positive flow of support for training, research and development to secure our future? Above all, where is the will to implement worthwhile action? What we need instead is a whole lot of very “unquiet” Australians who are prepared to stand up and be counted in order to achieve results. The kids with their climate strike showed how powerful grassroots action can be in focusing attention to bring about a change in attitudes. Plenty of us in the older generation are with them all the way, and we will not be quiet.
– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic
Food for thought
In his article (“Climate beef”, October 5-11), Matthew Evans has set us well on the road to achieving sustainable agriculture in a changing climate. By combining his knowledge of farming with his study of climate science, Evans suggests the answer lies with small mixed farms where land not suitable for crops is used for livestock. Down where I live on the Monaro, just under half the emissions come from farming, so clearly animal producers are not keeping enough carbon in the soil. The methods of Gippsland’s Niels Olsen cited by Evans are certainly ones for emulating. Our local heroes – Charlie Massy, Charlie Maslin, Charlie Prell – use various techniques, not least rotational grazing, to regenerate the land and keep more carbon in the soil. Vegans may have the very best of intentions when it comes to climate change but, in a world of diminishing arable land per capita, meat and milk production are critical to global food security. There are vast swaths of grassland that can be used for pasture but not cropping. As Evans implies, eating meat per se is not the problem; it is energy-intensive, grain-fed, industrial-style animal production. Eating grass-fed meat is not the problem, provided animals are raised on farms where there are genuine attempts to keep carbon in the soil.
– Jenny Goldie, Cooma, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 12, 2019. Subscribe here.