November 10th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Farmers' protest in Canberra over national water plan

EDITORIAL: Howard and Rudd - the Coke vs. Pepsi election?

RURAL CRISIS: Crocodile tears and hand-wringing over drought

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Why voters have turned on John Howard

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: China's aggressive trade strategy pays off

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Risk for Australia in dependence on China

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Overdue steps to ensure open government

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Victoria's hospital fiasco / Shooting fish in a barrel / Misreading America

POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES: How family-friendly is the free market?

DRUGS POLICY: Illicit drugs and the federal election

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Exposing the abortion-breast cancer link

OPINION: A Rudd election win will be a disaster

OBITUARY: A Labor Party statesman remembered - Hon. Kim Edward Beazley Snr. AO (1917-2007)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Christian foster-parents face deregistration / Marital status and poverty - study

BOOKS: CREATORS: From Chaucer to Walt Disney, by Paul Johnson

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Victoria's hospital fiasco / Shooting fish in a barrel / Misreading America

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, November 10, 2007
Victoria's hospital fiasco

I'm slowly edging my way back into circulation and resuming the Straws in the Wind column, after a lost six weeks within our hospital system.

People who are saying that the NSW hospital/medical situation is now worse than that of Queensland, obviously haven't looked in Victoria. Here we have the worst state of affairs that I can ever remember, and that includes the 1930s Depression, when there was no money, skint facilities, but people - doctors, nurses and support staff - of great energy and integrity.

It was a great distinction for a doctor to be invited to be an honorary of the hospital, and that meant without pay. Hardly the situation now.

But we and our families trusted all these people and admired them. There is now a situation of deep public mistrust and dawning shadows of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for more and more older patients - that is, unless they have a protective shield of relatives, or more likely nowadays, friends. And there is an even worse situation in aged care for Australians.

These are social disasters for which no one is taking responsibility, while the parties and the politicians are even too cowardly to mention what is a massive loss of basic human rights.

The media are too venal to want to talk about it. The old Dickensian/ Victorian adage about keeping out of hospitals, for you can die there, or come out with new problems, often more serious than the ones before you went in - that adage is again true, and widely current.

Most doctors, by the way, are as helpless in the face of such dark developments as we are, for these developments are institutional, psychological, and the product of the hijacking of the system by the uniquely unqualified, who are in no sense professional.

A similar fate appears to have occurred in education and libraries, but with one difference: you don't normally die in a library or a school.


Shooting fish in a barrel

Anyone who thinks bipartisanship is better than confrontation sometimes can get it wrong. This election, with its me-too, copycat antics, is a chilling example of the worst kind of bipartisanship.

Mr Howard decided that his party shouldn't banish fast food, etc., advertisements from children's television programs, so that all the sweet and bloating things that dieticians and doctors abhor should be allowed a free run on children's television time. Don't interfere with The Market!

But what happens to the studies, the surveys and the campaigns about childhood obesity, early diabetes and all the rest? Although heavily subsidised by the government, these campaigns are muted during the interregnum in deference to the big-dollar companies and multinationals.

Our now pathetic television networks, of course, applaud this hypocrisy, for they pick up big advertising dollars for food advertising to the young. So far so good, for modern conservatives would reason that way, wouldn't they?

But now, little Kevin has told his party to fall into line, so Labor have abandoned their policy of opposing the use of children's television time for advertising life-damaging muck. And I don't mean the party's political program, I mean that rubbish in boxes held up by unemployed actors.

Why are Labor doing this? They can't be short of a bob? Why aren't they content with big trade-union handouts and the kindness of the sleazier sections of business and banking?

Or is it to do nothing to offend the media, who've been trying to manufacture consent for the lost chorus of a lost Gilbert and Sullivan political opera? But what hope for the children in the face of these older generational hypocrisies and passing greeds?

At any rate, comrades, like General MacArthur - or is it Banquo's ghost? - I have returned.


Misreading America

America's race to get an accurate anti-missile defence, before the nuclear arming of her latest opponents, is a thrilling one. The US seems to be close to success, and the anger and bluster of Russia's Vladimir Putin is moving to something more sinister.

He is manoeuvring to overthrow, by whatever means, the pro-American, or rather anti-communist, and anti-terrorist political systems of eastern European, and if necessary, the Baltic and former Russian satellites to the south.

These countries will be offered to be hosts of the new anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. A shield is to be erected by the United States to protect Western Europe from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which are latest stage of the ABM scientific developments.

The US would have regained a very important role - protector of Europe and of every friendly nation which wants to feel comfortably safe from nuclear threats.

An added bonus: if Putin and his lackey allies want an arms race, then good-oh. We remember Russia's last arms race with Reagan, and where that ended up.

I think most Westerners are still at the usual business of misreading and underestimating the Americans. This includes not only the Maoist clones through the Western media, and the Trojan donkeys in our bureaucracies, but also many who may be excused.

Most young Westerners know no history, least of all political and military history; they don't know economics of any rigour or plausibility; they know less geography than Herodotus.

For them the world is a supermarket trolley, or show-bag, etc. But they think well of their country, and, speaking of Australians, are hospitable and as honest as it is as possible to be in the jungle which has replaced their society.

The UN is greatly alarmed at America's determination and success, for the pacification of at least some large and important parts of the world by newly-found American strength will do the UN out of a role which they have never really honestly accepted, and at which they have invariably failed.

I can see the lights being lowered at Lake Success, as two missiles meet and successfully combine in the heavens. None of this is to say that the ABM development is a cure-all or a magic bullet for the world's problems. There probably is no such thing.

But it will introduce a greatly needed atmosphere of stability in an otherwise dangerously chaotic global system.

- Max Teichmann

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