Monthly Archives: August 2019

Aug 30

GP rebate change looks terminal: Xenophon

Australians could pay more for a short visit to the doctor from next week – but possibly not for long.

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The Greens and Labor want to disallow the Abbott government’s “sneaky” pre-Christmas change to the rebate system for GP visits.

The motion would need four more votes to pass and already has support from independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Nick Xenophon. Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir is likely to support the motion which also reportedly has support from Palmer United party senator Glenn Lazarus.

“I think this measure is pretty much terminal,” Senator Xenophon told reporters in Adelaide.

From Monday, the rebate for appointments lasting under 10 minutes will be cut from $37.05 to $16.95, and doctors are warning they may pass that cost to patients.

The government tabled the change as a regulation before Christmas, so it will remain in force unless overturned after the Senate returns on February 9.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott insists the changes are designed to improve care and ensure doctors spend more time with their patients.

Medicare had to be sustainable, he said.

“I say to all of the critics: `If you don’t like what we are doing, come up with your alternative because we simply cannot go on as a government, and as a country, living beyond our means’,” he said.

AMA president Brian Owler said the rebate cut had nothing to do with improving the quality of care or tackling six-minute medicine.

“It is about grabbing $1.3 billion from patients and family doctors to improve the budget,” Associate Professor Owler said in a statement.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called it a “sneak attack” on Medicare.

“Our position is unequivocal, it’s in black and white,” Mr Shorten said.

“We will oppose Tony Abbott absolutely changing the rebate system for our GPs, making it a lot harder and through this sneaky back-door method,” he told reporters in Queensland.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC 24 he believed new Health Minister Sussan Ley could negotiate Senate support.

But Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm was a rare voice backing the government on Wednesday. Family First’s Bob Day also supports the government.

Senator Leyonhjelm says he doesn’t believe doctors will pass on the cost.

“I’m not influenced by the AMA – it’s just basically a union for doctors,” he told AAP by phone from India, where he is on holiday.

“Their argument is that they will make less money, therefore they will have to charge their patients.

“Well, that was the government’s intention and I don’t see any problem with that. The objective is to get over this idea that health care can be free.”

Senator Xenophon says overturning the regulation could cause some chaos, but not as much as not disallowing it would create in the public hospital system and the way medicine is practised.

A further $5 cut to GP rebates comes in from July 1, on top of a near-six-year freeze on Medicare rebate indexation.

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Aug 30

Gun appears three years after ring smashed

A Glock pistol found in an Aladdin’s cave of drugs and firearms this month allegedly came from an imported guns cache that has featured in high-profile Sydney crimes.

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More than 200 Glock pistols were illegally funnelled to Australia from Germany before Strike Force Maxworthy smashed the firearms racket in 2012.

The pistols have popped up in high-profile crimes, including the shooting of notorious criminal Bassam Hamzy’s aunt in March 2013.

Maha Hamze was shot in the legs through the front door of her western Sydney home with a Glock that was later discovered during a raid by police investigating a bungled cash-in-transit van robbery in 2013.

Police have also uncovered the pistols at homes in Wagga Wagga in country NSW and during raids in Bankstown, Greystanes and Westmead.

Only 12 of the pistols that reached Australian shores have been recovered.

Last week, drug squad investigators found the latest piece of the global firearms puzzle after a raid on a box trailer at a Edensor Park.

Officers uncovered a Uzi submachine gun, an assault rifle, four handguns, two shotguns and a range of ammunition.

Police will allege one handgun was a Glock pistol that had been illegally imported as part of the firearms racket several years ago.

Authorities will try to trace how the pistol made its way from Europe allegedly into the possession of Sydney man To Hoai Thach.

Thach is not charged in relation to the firearms ring.

There was also allegedly more than $20 million worth of drugs – including 14.7 kilograms of heroin and 6.2 kilograms of ecstasy tablets – found in the box trailer and a car.

Thach, 27, appeared in Campbelltown Local Court on Wednesday on 20 charges, including large commercial drug supply.

He did not apply for bail and the case was adjourned to March 11.

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Aug 30

US PTSD war vet executed for cop murder

A Vietnam war vet with post-traumatic stress disorder has been executed in the United States for murdering a police officer, the country’s first death row inmate killed this year.

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Andrew Howard Brannan, 66, was declared dead by lethal injection at 8.33pm local time on Tuesday at an execution chamber in Jackson, Georgia, prison spokeswoman Susan Megahee said.

Brannan, who fought in the Vietnam War, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was convicted in January 2000 for the murder of 22-year-old police officer Kyle Dinkheller.

Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles had considered clemency on Monday, but denied to stay the execution and said Brannan was guilty of “malice murder”.

A dashboard police camera recorded Dinkheller’s death on January 12, 1998, after the officer stopped Brannan for speeding.

The video shows Brannan dancing and yelling insults at the officer before taunting the officer to kill him, according to court documents.

Brannan then reached into his car and pulled out a gun, opening fire on Dinkheller while saying “die f***er,” shooting the officer nine times, including once at close range.

The Georgia Supreme Court reinstated Brannan’s death sentence in 2008 after a lower court judge struck it down.

Last June, the US Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

The top US court rejected a last-ditch appeal on Tuesday evening.

Brannan’s lawyers argued he was a courageous soldier who volunteered to fight for his country and did not deserve to be killed.

“Andrew Brannan was decorated for heroic combat service,” said lawyer Brian Kammer.

“Brannan suffered severe, debilitating mental illness as a result of his combat experiences whose symptoms continued to manifest up to the time of the crime,” Kammer wrote in a final appeal.

The lawyer called for a “categorical exemption” from capital punishment for veterans such as Brannan and argued the execution was unconstitutional.

“A categorical exclusion is warranted because combat veterans with PTSD are meaningfully distinguishable from other capital offenders,” he said.

Brannan’s lawyers had not denied that he killed Dinkheller, but argued for clemency based on his mental illness.

In 2014, the number of executions in the United States fell to its lowest in 20 years, with a total of 35 inmates executed across the country, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

A total of 29 states plus the US capital Washington DC have either abolished the death penalty or no longer use it.

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Aug 30

Whitehaven predicts coal rebound in 2015

Whitehaven Coal has predicted increases in thermal and metallurgical coal prices in 2015 in a positive sign for the beleaguered sector.

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The commodity is Australia’s second biggest export earner behind iron ore, but many producers, including Whitehaven, have been posting financial losses for several years.

Whitehaven was reasonably buoyant in its outlook as it posted record half year sales on Wednesday

Thermal coal remains the lowest cost source of energy for power generators, it said, and the International Energy Agency is forecasting average demand growth of 2.1 per cent a year until 2019.

“Whitehaven expects a stable to gradual increase in the price for its thermal coal qualities over the next year,” the company said.

Demand from China had weakened, but increased elsewhere in Asia, with Whitehaven selling more to Japan and Korea.

Production cuts in the metallurgical coal market – used to make steel – were still working their way through and should boost those prices too, the company said.

But Whitehaven received lower prices in the December quarter than in the preceding three months.

The $US87.56 tonne for its metallurgical products was down from $89 and its thermal coal products commanded $US66.07, down from $68.

The NSW-based miner’s sales in the six months to December rose six per cent from the same period a year earlier, to a record six million tonnes.

Production of saleable coal was up nine per cent to 5.7 million tonnes, despite a 17 per cent fall in the December quarter due to scheduled mine work.

Royal Bank of Canada mining analyst Chris Drew said it would probably be another tough year for coal miners, but Whitehaven was performing well considering.

Strong sales were generating cashflow, thermal coal was getting better prices than the benchmark, and with 10 per cent of global metallurgical supply due to drop out through mine closures the outlook was bright, he said.

The Maules Creek project, which will become Whitehaven’s best mine, achieved first sales last week and will increase its mix of higher priced metallurgical coal.

“It was a good quarter but they have a realistic and cautious outlook: maybe there is not so much downside this year but a slow grind to recovery,” Mr Drew said.

Whitehaven shares gained 1.5 cents to $1.21.

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Aug 30

Doherty feeling World Cup pressure

Xavier Doherty admits to feeling the extra pressure and expectations generated by being the only specialist spinner in Australia’s pace-packed cricket World Cup squad.

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The Tasmanian left-arm tweaker is the primary slow bowling option in a squad that contains four pacemen and three fast-medium allrounders.

That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a place in the World Cup side, as Australia could go in with offspinning allrounder Glenn Maxwell.

While Test spinner Nathan Lyon was given half a dozen games in 2014 to advance his World Cup, claims, the selectors ultimately plumped for 32-year-old Doherty, who has played 57 ODIs.

Lyon has played just eight ODIs and Doherty said his experience had probably worked in his favour, with few other specialist spinners given an extended run in recent times,

Asked if he felt extra pressure Doherty said “there probably is, if I was going to be honest, given there was so much speculation about the spinning spot.

“I probably do feel that expectation to really nail it, and when my opportunity comes to take it.”

Doherty came to prominence in shorter forms of the game through his ability to contain batsmen through faster dart-type deliveries rather than through turn and guile.

He won’t be motivated by criticism, which he regards as a standard part of modern day sport.

“Not many people get away with avoiding criticism, you only have to look around our team especially,” Doherty said.

“Guys at the very top are getting criticised, so I’ve got to expect it as well. That’s fair enough.”

He’s philosophical about the tendency towards flat pitches that produce plenty of boundaries and high scoring.

Doherty accepts he may struggle to get a game on some Australian grounds during the World Cup.

“The authorities are after higher scoring games and that’s the way it’s turning out and that’s what this World Cup will be, high-scoring affairs I’d imagine,” Doherty said.

“I’m under no illusion I probably won’t play every game and there are probably certain pitches where I’ll be looked at to come into contention.

“So it’s when I get those opportunities to really nail it.

“But I feel if I’m bowling at my best I can make it pretty hard for the selectors as well.”

With Michael Clarke injured of late, Doherty has found himself working under George Bailey his skipper at Tasmania.

“George and I have known each other for a long time, so he probably gives me a bit more reign than `Pup’ (Clarke) does and knows my game a little bit better, so will trust what I can do,” Doherty said.

The Australian squad will play its first World Cup lead-up game against England at the SCG on Friday.

TALE OF A TWEAKER – XAVIER DOHERTY’S YEAR-BY-YEAR ODI RECORD

*2010 2 matches, 4 wickets, average 15.75, econ rate 4.50

*2011 – 14 matches, 16 wickets, average 34.81, econ rate 4.52

*2012 – 21 matches, 22 wickets, average 36.86, econ rate 4.87

*2013: 14 matches, 7 wickets, average 65.57, econ rate 5.15

2014: 6 matches, 5 wickets, average 45.20, econ rate 4.26.

Stats: ESPN Cricinfo Statsguru.

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