Two of the big guns of Julia Gillard’s Government confirmed this morning that they will not contest the next election.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, one of the most prominent faces of the Labor Government under both prime ministers, and Higher Education Minister Chris Evans will resign from Cabinet.
It’s big news. Roxon, particularly, is one of the most prominent public faces of this Government, having pushed through one of Labor’s signature accomplishments, the plain packaging of tobacco products. And Evans has been the leader of the party in the Senate for eight years.
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Racism, sexism, ageism, disability-ism, sexual orientation-ism…
None of these are really socially acceptable. But what about fattism?
Like all prejudices, it’s easy to a be a fattist. It comes naturally. Particularly if you’re one of those freaks who have never felt plump because you eat at the speed of a tortoise.
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A woman most Australians had never heard of put herself out there this weekend in the most startling way. Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin, who until now has been described as “intensely private”, detailed her experience with IVF as a way of highlighting the humanity of her boss - the Leader of the Opposition.
It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to speak out about a medical process which is, ironically, becoming increasingly common. With the exception of a small handful of “personalities”, most IVF patients go through it in private. So as political interventions go, Credlin’s decision to go public is filled with meaning.
Political watchers spent yesterday reading the tea leaves and concluding that Julia Gillard’s YouTube sensation misogyny speech had made a dent and Liberal polling must be showing that the extra efforts of Abbott’s wife Margie to defend his record on women’s issues were not having as much impact as hoped. Amid the tea leaves, however, was a telling piece of information straight from the source, Credlin herself.
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As Australians, we can breathe a sigh of relief, link arms and celebrate the “implied right to political communication”.
This is our version of free speech, a fundamental value of democracy. So what if it’s a little foggy, subject to wide interpretation, and not officially safeguarded in the Constitution. I’ll have you know the word “implied” is as good as gold – take it from me.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary its core verb “imply” means to “comprise as a necessary logical consequence …To express indirectly; to insinuate, hint at.”
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As this increasingly weird “handbag hitsquad” versus “poor Mr Abbott” tit-for-tat rumbles through the media, the Twitterverse and the ether, let’s take up the challenge, issued by many sensible people, calling for a policy debate instead.
Let’s look at what our Government has, and will, deliver for women and ask what the Liberals, in contrast, failed to do in 11 years in Government and what Tony Abbott would do if he became Prime Minister.
I’m really proud to be part of a Government delivering for women across all walks of life. Just look at some of what the Labor Government has delivered for women.
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One of the best books I’ve ever read in my life is He’s Just Not That Into You. It was liberating to finally work out that because I liked a guy, it wasn’t automatic that he was going to like me.
Once this philosophy sunk in, I was able to work out which ones liked me and which ones were a waste of time. Not long afterwards, I met my husband and the rest is probably in other columns.
The person who adapts this book for the workplace or for politics will make a fortune. You don’t have to like every single one of your colleagues, suppliers and or the people to whom you supply, you merely have to do business with them.
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It is not Julia Gillard’s job to solve trolling. Nor is it Nicola Roxon’s, nor Barry O’Farrell or any other government entity. But sites like Twitter and Facebook need to react more quickly when users are bullied.
It’s pretty contradictory that a time when we are concerned about government encroaching into the online space, that we are also demanding they solve this so-called “trolling problem” overnight.
Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah has demanded Julia Gillard enforce tougher laws for online bullying after receiving an offensive tweet about his mum.
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Years ago, while visiting Leningrad, as St Petersburg was known in the Evil Empire days, I was approached by a svelte young Russian beauty who asked me if I would smuggle some of her private letters out of the Soviet Union to her friends in Western Europe.
Telegraph, telephone and the mail were closely monitored by the totalitarian state’s notorious KGB, especially when the addressee was in the decadent West.
Being a typical risk-taking undergraduate – I’d just swum in the half-frozen Neva River from the Peter and Paul Fortress on a dare – and eager to poke a stick in the Kremlin’s watchful eye, I happily obliged my lovely if oppressed new friend (and, yes, I would have done it even if she looked like a babushka instead of Natasha Poly; but it helped).
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It is not a reassuring sign that the Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, needed to use a fictional television show to justify why the Federal Government should spy on our online data.
In a speech to the Security Government conference in Canberra yesterday, Ms Roxon used an episode of LA Law to highlight why the government should have the right to require ISPs to store everything from our passwords to our social media activity, emails and smartphone internet use for a period of up to two years.
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There’s a story about Tony Abbott excitedly returning home from parliament and informing his wife Margie that John Howard had given him the important tactical position of Leader of the House.
He was promptly told, and I’m paraphrasing, well you’re not the leader of this house honey, take the garbage out. For someone with a problem with strong women, the Opposition Leader has spent his whole life surrounded by them.
A growing list of Government MPs have today joined a chorus of complaint about Abbott’s dealings with the acting Speaker of the House of Representatives Anna Burke. Burke threw Abbott out of Question Time yesterday, after Abbott just couldn’t bring himself to obey her order to withdraw a sledge “unreservedly.”
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In the wake of last week’s High Court’s decision to uphold the Government’s law mandating that cigarettes be sold in plain olive-coloured green boxes, all the players have behaved exactly as you would have expected.
The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek put out a mawkish press release which described the ruling as “a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco-related illness.’’
“For anyone who has ever lost someone, this is for you,’’ it said in a line which, with a bit of tweaking, might have made a pretty good slogan for a cigarette.
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There were always hints that Kevin Rudd might have had a bit of a problem when it came to dealing with women. When it emerged he blew his top at a RAAF hostie because he didn’t like the meal choice on his VIP jet people wondered if he would have acted that way if served the offending sandwich by a man.
Now in the torrent of revelations about what Kevin ‘07 was actually like to work with, it’s women Ministers who have been the most scathing (apart from Wayne Swan, who went totally off his ‘nana about Rudd). It’s also impossible to ignore the fact not a single female front-bencher has come out on his side.
In fact, the only two women publicly cheering on the Rudd spill are his wife and daughter. Perhaps sensing an uphill battle with the ladies, Jessica Rudd conscripted the most female-oriented website possible to the Rudd cause, urging Mamamia readers to “own this spill people”.
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Our government has been trying to ensure that the generous rebate to millions of Australians who take out private health insurance remains in place, and remains sustainable into the future.
To do this, we’ve tried to introduce a means test that stops support for a family earning more than a quarter of a millions dollars - but retains it for nearly 8 million low and middle income Australians, with a scale down for those in between.
Our last changes were met with predictions from the Liberals and insurers that the sky would fall in and that millions would drop out of insurance.
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The Government has sealed the deal on health reforms, declaring them the biggest thing since Medicare - see the story here. But then, they would talk them up, wouldn’t they? The Punch decided to get Australian Medical Association President Dr Steve Hambleton’s verdict.
What’s your overall impression of the deal?
Hospitals definitely needed improved funding and the good signal is that the Prime Minister is actually taking notice of medical experts - so I guess (we should see) improved transparency and meaningful clinical engagement.
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The latest move by the Federal Government to make smoking a habit of the past is the latest salvo in the rapid expansion of the nanny state.
Recently the Health Minister Nicola Roxon re‑announced the government’s intention to force tobacco companies to adopt plain packaging for all cigarette brands.
From next year, smokers will be greeted with a standard olive‑green packet emblazoned with graphic health warnings screaming that “every cigarette is doing you damage”.
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Smoking inside will be banned in enclosed public spaces in China as of May 1 this year.
So that leaves at least 300 million people just five weeks to break the habit of a lifetime.
Given that China is the world’s largest producer of cigarettes and that one in three smokers worldwide are Chinese, this is a social undertaking of epic proportions.
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Just how Nicola Roxon took her seat at the head of the Health Ministers’ meeting in Hobart last week beggars belief.
Ms Roxon’s position as Federal Health Minister is now untenable.
Her strident and consistent advocacy for the Rudd health ‘reforms’ leave her now embarrassed, discredited and renders her impotent and therefore unable to remain in the health portfolio. Just as Peter Garrett had to be separated from the disastrous pink batts scandal and other wasteful green energy schemes (he should have been sacked), so too Nicola Roxon must be dispatched from health.
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There’s an odd kind of acquiescence to broken political promises. It’s considered almost narky to politely point out to politicians that they have in fact broken a promise that helped have them elected.
Following the big sell the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Health Minister Nicola Roxon are embarking on after the COAG health agreement, its worth remembering what we were actually promised in back in Kevin07 days.
Despite the celebrations that Gillard and Roxon are asking us to partake in, the ‘deal’ it represents is a failure of Rudd, Gillard and Roxon to implement what was supposed to be a revolutionary health agenda. It’s symptomatic of the kind of inertia Labor has encountered across its policy agenda and, consequently, its support base.
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It being Melbourne Cup day yesterday you probably started drinking at about 10 am and missed this story, but in another shock horror study researchers have found that we as Australians are drinking more than ever.
Contrary to some studies that began to indicate a decline in our habit, the National Drug Research Institute has found we’re apparently putting it away like Brendan Fevola at Brownlow night. This increase has been attributed to the amount of wine that we’re drinking, because apparently we’ve just worked out how much alcohol the stuff has in it.
One might think that such a finding would elicit some kind of response from the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon. Like an abusive PE teacher she frequently reminds us that we’ve been drinking too much, eating too much and we’re slob of a nation who will never make the athletics squad. It might even be an opportunity to look a bit further into something that every major health body in the nation and the Henry Review has championed: that is a volumetric tax on alcohol.
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Never work with children, animals or the NSW Government. Nicola Roxon should consider adopting this updated truism of showbiz, as it might shield her from embarrassment the next time she’s tempted to hit the hustings with a member of the outfit which recorded a 25 per cent primary vote in a once-safe State Labor seat last month.
The federal Health Minister went to western Sydney this week, along with NSW Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt, and paid a visit to Westmead Hospital where she announced that the Gillard Government would spend $11.3 million to provide 44 new acute, sub-acute and intensive care beds.
A noble initiative but one which was overshadowed by a well-mannered woman who politely inquired as to whether her bed-ridden elderly father could perhaps be given a room with a toilet during his convalescence at Westmead.
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Sectarianism is back in Parliament, well according to Kevin Andrews it is anyway. It was an odd accusation that, on the face of it, didn’t make a great deal of sense.
Kevin Andrews jumped up at the end of question time and accused Health Minister Nicola Roxon of a sectarian attack on the leader of the opposition: “Mr Speaker, there should be no place for this foul sectarian attack we get from this minister in this place.”
It wasn’t initially clear what Andrews got so fired up about, but if you rewind a moment you can see Roxon’s backhander when answering a question about a new mother’s support help line.
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This morning David Penberthy wrote about how worryingly effective health minister Nicola Roxon has been in office. He argued the preventative health agenda has taken hold of public policy, with millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money being directed towards stopping people doing some things that are generally seen as pleasurable, like eating bacon, sitting on the couch or having four middies of beer.
As part of this program the government will take a snapshot of the nation’s health by surveying 50,000 people about their lifestyle. Today it’s reported the survey will be compulsory. If you are selected and don’t answer the questions, you will be fined, $110 a day, until you agree to surrender information about your personal lifestyle choices to the government. You may also get a knock on the door at 3am from clipboard-wielding statisticians.
Here’s an excerpt from today’s story:
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The Rudd Government believes universal access to top quality health care and medicines is a right for every Australian, regardless of where they live or how much money they have.
Most Australians feel the same. It’s part of our “fair go” tradition, something that is I believe is one of the greatest things about Australia. However, tradition isn’t going to help our struggling health system. We know that left unchecked, health costs were set to eclipse entire state budgets by the middle of the century.
That is why the Rudd Government embarked upon the most significant reforms to the health system since the introduction of Medicare. Only a Labor Government – the founders of Medicare - would make such an undertaking.
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While the world is held ransom by a volcano that looks like its name was invented by a process of fist mashing the keyboard, the future of the country’s health system is being held ransom to a similarly incomprehensible force of nature in Canberra: a meeting between state premiers and the Prime Minister.
In fact, to give volcanos credit they only erupt every 20 years or so, are relatively easy to understand and haven’t inconvenienced anyone on this level for quite a while. There seems to be a COAG meeting every three weeks under Kevin Rudd and this health debate has been the most torturous so far.
To say this is an important issue is an understatement - it is probably the most important policy issue for the Government to get right before the election, because of both the desire for action in the electorate and yet unfulfilled promises for that change.
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IT’S not just that Health Minister, Nicola Roxon has acknowledged that taxes may need to increase to fund Labor’s health policy in the longer-run. Or, that Treasurer Wayne Swan has admitted a full federal take-over of the nation’s 764 public hospitals could yet be pursued.
Such frankness should be welcomed in our political leaders. It’s just that in both cases, the comments underscore the fact that in complex reforms, there is many a slip `twixt policy cup and delivery lip.
Put another way, there is a huge distance and many hurdles between Kevin Rudd’s radical health reform promise, and the tangle of changes needed to make things better for patients. Those ``slips’’ are already apparent.
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Sometimes you wonder whether you’re living in a parallel universe.
Like that South Park episode where Cartman is nice all the time, or in Seinfeld when Elaine meets Bizarro Jerry.
Or when the Federal Health Minister – who’s also the mother of a small child – won’t ban a toxic chemical that’s making babies sick.
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For those who might have been pondering the issue, I can today tell you that Health and Ageing Minister Nicola Roxon has great breasts.
This is not my personal rating. I have taken the advice of an expert. Two Fridays ago mother-of-one Roxon gave a speech and then took questions from an audience in Canberra. A woman rose to compliment Roxon on the number of ministerial tasks she was managing. Slightly embarrassed by the praise she replied, “I have broad shoulders.”
“Yes,’’ continued the voice in the audience, “you do have broad shoulders. And great breasts.”
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A new preventative health agency is set to be established in the coming months that will tell people what they can eat, drink and certainly not smoke.
It will also attempt to monitor how much of this bad behaviour we are indulging in by working out how fat we’re getting. It’s also likely going to aim to get us fit and exercising as “communities”.
So be prepared to be awoken by a megaphone wielding Nicola Roxon who will no doubt lecture you on why you shouldn’t be hung-over as she accompanies you to the local common for some invigorating star jumps.
The fat patrol are no longer vigilantes, they’ve been given their own agency.
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Before the advent of swine flu, Nicola Roxon’s most notable public outing was during the 2007 election campaign when Health Minister Tony Abbott failed to show up for a televised debate at the National Press Club.
Finding herself in the middle of a politician’s fantasy – a forum on national television to herself – Roxon showed a good combination of humility and pugnacity by addressing the audience herself, and making the point to Abbott that he should have organised his time better.
Her quiet sledging drew the above, infamous response from Abbott: “That’s bullshit.”
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In the heady days of the 2007 election campaign the Australian people were given a promise. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Health Minister Nicola Roxon said if public hospitals did not get their act together by mid-2009 the Commonwealth would take control of 750 hospitals nation-wide from state governments. With June 2009 approaching, it appears state hospitals aren’t looking much better. A lot of them are looking worse, and this may force to the Government to face up to what was a disingenuous election promise because everybody knows this was never going to happen.
Between babies being miscarried in toilets and doctors being forced to pay for their own supplies, the NSW hospital system only needs some kind of zombie virus to complete the entire set of next week’s episode of 20 to 1: World’s Greatest PR Disasters. In fact the NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca might welcome the zombie plague as the ravenous hordes would be likely to reduce the number of patients on elective surgery waiting lists.
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