Health system in turmoil

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The scrapping of the most recent iteration of the Medicare rebate cuts may be a win for patients, but it suggests a health system in turmoil and no clear direction on how to get it back on track.

It’s hardly surprising that the realisation that certain Medicare rebates would be cut by $20.10 was met with opposition by GPs, patients, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and of course, opposition MPs, but it’s the lack of support from government backbenchers which is cause for concern.

Former cabinet minister Mal Brough was prepared to go public with his opposition to the imminent change and Campbell Newman, facing a battle for re-election in Queensland, was keen to have the issue killed. And Queensland backbencher Bert van Manen has made public what he sees as a need for the government to fix its communication problems. All this only 24 hours after Tony Abbott had defended the changes as a “price signal” and “economic reform”.

Indeed, the news of the backdown came as a surprise to doctors, who were holding meetings with the AMA, displaying posters in waiting rooms directing complaints about new fees to Tony Abbott and mobilising a petition on GetUp, which quickly gained momentum and over 44,000 signatures. And while the news, delivered by new Minster for Health Susan Ley, that the changes would be scrapped was welcome, she also made it clear that more changes were to come. “It remains critical that we implement changes to ensure quality care for Australians and a secure future for Medicare,” Ms Ley said.

Greens senator Dr Richard Di Natale signalled not only a health policy in crisis, but a government at odds, by saying, “You have to wonder about the fact we were promised this sort of calm, methodical, grown-up government. And yet when it comes to health policy it’s just one shambles, followed by another shambles, it’s just chaos.”

Independent senator Nick Xenaphon hoped that the government would take note that consultation with GPs was needed to ensure successful changes to the health system were made. “This is a case where the Government hasn’t thought this through,” he said. “They have treated doctors as an enemy rather than a friend where they can work together with them to get a better health outcome and savings to taxpayers.”

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Read more at TheAge.com.au

Opinion: Time to listen

If the last six months has taught Tony Abbott   one thing, hopefully it is that it is time to listen to what others believe is right for our country, rather than attempting to implement policy and changes which are sporadic at best and incredibly damaging at worst.

It must be said that Tony Abbott has increased his political worth overseas when dealing with such tragedies as the disappearance of flight MH370 and the shooting down of flight MH17, but domestically the Prime Minister seems to be at odds with what the country wants and needs.

Shunned by his own party during the Victorian state election and given the short-shrift by Campbell Newman now that campaigning for the Queensland election is underway, Mr Abbott is facing a choppy political future. Undermined by his own backbenchers on policies he wholeheartedly champions, such as the GP co-payment in its many iterations and paid parental leave (yes, he’s still keen on that), it’s time for the Prime Minster to take a deep breath and listen.

Far from taking the strides forward we were promised when the Coalition government came to power some 14 months ago, we’re in a holding pattern which is good for no one. We have a health system in turmoil, an education system which is in danger of becoming a cash cow for universities, a national broadcaster forced to slash staff, the Australian Tax Office unable to chase tax cheats due to staff cuts and uncertainty surrounding the future of the Age Pension. If we’re better off under Mr Abbott’s leadership, as we’re constantly told we are, then I must be missing something big that’s happened.

Frequent changes in leadership of the country does no one any favours and so I would like nothing more than to have a government which truly does what is best for Australia, and those who call it home. With Australia Day just around the corner, and the centenary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, perhaps it’s time for Mr Abbott to reflect on what truly makes this country great and embrace it, rather than try to tear it apart.

Do you think that changes to the health system, Medicare in particular, are called for? Is there a need for greater government consultation with stakeholders before making fundamental policy changes? Is Tony Abbott on the right track with his management of the country and economy, or is it time for him to take stock and a new direction?

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Written by Debbie McTaggart

87 Comments

Total Comments: 87
  1. 0
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    Congratulations on an excellent opinion piece – moderate in its criticisms but spot on in its advice.
    I would go a bit further than this, however.
    I am concerned about all this nonsense about there being no such thing as climate change, and the insistence by Mr Abbott that public servants us the term “climate variability” instead – this is 16th century stuff.
    Related to this is the rejection by this government of all things scientific – crippling the CSIRO, getting rid of a Minister for Science.
    And also related to this his disregard for the environment – Mr Abbott spruiks that getting rid of the carbon tax was some kind of grand victory – it wasn’t, it was a disaster for our fragile environment.
    Similarly for getting rid of the mining tax – why shouldn’t these billionaires who profit from exploiting the natural resources that should belong to all of us be required to pay more for doing so?
    In the face of world-wide concern about the destructiveness of carbon, Mr Abbott clings fiercely to an outdated belief that the future of the world and of our country depends on coal, when quite the reverse is true. His “direct action” approach, whereby we actually PAY the polluters is farcical, and doomed to failure. The way to stop people and companies from doing something is to punish them, not to reward them!
    Another criticism I have of Mr Abbott and his government is his determination to drag us back into the past – for example, resurrecting knights and dames, even on the most limited basis.
    States should not be encouraged (forced?) to sell their State assets – these belong to the people for a very good reason – if they are sold, prices will inevitably rise steadily over time, maintenance will be kept to a minimum (because it lessens profits), and only profitable (densely populated) areas will be serviced.
    Finally, I want my ABC. I do not want this country to be governed at the behest of an expatriate Press baron, or the media to be slanted one way or another by rich, self-interested mining magnates.
    Of course the government has to keep a close eye on expenditure and try to pay down the public debt, but nearly every cost-cutting tactic to date has been at the expense of the less well off while those better off (and more influential with this government) have prospered.

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      I couldn’t agree more JohnJax.

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      Good post and factual.
      The only place ‘climate change’ apparently is not occurring is in Australia where the voice of the coal industry rules supreme. Same as the ‘level playing field’ from Paul Keating and once again this only exists in Australia. What a unique place we live in!
      What you did not mention is that the repeal of the Carbon Tax now costs Australian taxpayers an extra $8 BILLION A YEAR. That’s right folks: the Carbon Tax which was beginning to work well was canned for the financial gain of the fossil fuel industry and this is now being passed onto taxpayers. Tony Abbott never told you that though.
      You are also spot on with the cut in ABC and SBS funding. The reason why: because the Liberal side of politics does not want free speech. This must have been clear the 2 years before the last federal election when the business owned (=Liberal) media ran their one sided anti Labor propaganda campaign. And guess what….the Liberal Party won. Funny that.

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      Tony Abbott would LOVE to be a “Sir” like Menzies.

      The ABC and SBS offer alternatives to the commercial stations which are aimed at “dumbing down” and entertaining “the lowest common denominator”. All dictators – or would-be dictators hate free speech, open criticism, pointed comedy, or cartoons.

      If the Labor Party had not made such idiots of themselves with all their in-fighting, we would not be stuck with our current bunch of dangerous, snooty financially- motivated pollies.

  2. 0
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    The only thing wrong with the Health System is that it is controlled by doctors and is a “closed shop”
    Doctors control who studies to be a doctor
    Doctors decide if they qualify to be a doctor
    Doctors decide if they can practice and what and where
    Doctors decide if they are competent to continue to practice
    Doctors investigate allegations of malpractice
    Doctors set the standards they must meet to practice
    They are small businesses but are put on pedestals by the Government and the public. The Government should what a Governor of a Canadian Provinces did when his son died because of delays in care because he had no insurance. Sack the lot of them! The Governor did and told them that if they wanted to practice in his province it would be on his terms.

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      Huskie,
      We, as most other countries in the world DO NOT have a HealthCare system.
      We have a SICKNESS CARE system that manages rather than CURES diseases.
      The old saying holds true: “There is no money to be made from healthy People”.
      The government goes “Hand-in-Hand” with the Global Industrialists & BigPharma to ensure that Ilness remains “The Norm”.
      Resources to Support ILLEGAL Wars started to Feed the Global Miletary Industry can be found and expended without approval from the Aust. people!.
      Such as opposed to supporting the Australian TaxPayer. LET Them “ROT in HELL”.

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      You may be right but still better than the US where the poor have to die in the gutter because they cannot afford health insurance so they do not get treated.
      The only real issue I have with doctors in Australia is that too many are allowed to rort the system (2 minute consultations) and they have control on hospital admissions. My wife a couple of years ago had a failed gall bladder and all the tests showed that this was serious. When I took her to see the local surgeon for removal he would only do this at his private hospital despite working in the public hospital. Essentially this mongrel was prepared to see my wife collapse and potentially die in the street so that he could line his grubby little pockets. Luckily I surgeon surfed and was fortunate enough to find and out of town doctor who did the work through the public system and the boss is now as fit as a fiddle. My thanks go to Ned who was a doctor before an entrepreneur.

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      Mick,
      They are working on the American model!

    • 0
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      . . towards the American model . . . I should say

  3. 0
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    The health system could be spirited back into health by increasing the Medicare levy. Simple.

    • 0
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      I’d appreciate some details or ideas… how much and how much could be raised etc> Please.. just asking.

    • 0
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      I’d prefer our government to use taxpayer money better and not waste it because the option of getting more is just a matter of another tax. This is the problem.

    • 0
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      well it would work if we had more IN employment, instead of on the dole>? but yes i believe too many are still rorting the system!

    • 0
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      It is never mentioned in discussion groups such as this one but there is a vast amount of money to be saved by controlling the system of defensive medicine.

      There are countless tests and procedures, almost always expensive, ordered by your GP so that, in the event of litigation, they can demonstrate that they have taken all possible steps to resolve ones health issues.

      Personally, I have been discharged from hospital on several occasions with test results a mere 24 hours old, only to have the same tests ordered by my GP when I consult him the next day. I say “I’ve just had those tests performed in hospital!” Answer….Yes but I need to have another look at them.

      Whatever regulatory or legislative change may be necessary, there remains a fortune to be saved in this area alone.

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    Overall, the malaise we are enduring is our current two parties at the top, and the lack of any genuine change to a party that will do what is best and not just carry on with ideological ideas.

    That said – it had to be obvious to anyone that imposing a reduction in rebate of $20 or levying $7 a visit were policy ideas doomed to failure. They should never have been even considered, which points a very heavy finger at this government’s ability.

    Redneck’s original post on page 8 of this strand explains it all:

    http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1421478770/12

    It appears that there is no real need for a change in Medicare on costings.. and someone makes the very real point that a single item in the Budget is NOT solely responsible for any ‘debt’ – any ‘debt’ which is also explained as ‘government bonds’ – i.e. not Debt at all.
    I will say again – the entire gamut of problems in any budget rests solidly on the foundation of a lack of sufficient jobs, meaning adequate and meaningful infrastructure over and above paid roads and railroads to nowhere to truck dirt to the ports etc to suit the operator of a mine. All of this waste of talent and money to suit a Banana Republic style of shipping off bananas by the boatload leaves this country with a serious problem of revenue via tax money – a situation not helped (or perhaps aided and abetted) by the current tax system that claims to benefit all by benefiting business.

    My infrastructure plans are extensive and involve genuine industrial infrastructure and modern technology run on ‘alternative’ energy… but I am just one voice crying in the wilderness – the wilderness of my grand plan for a manufacturing complex in the wilderness of the Pilbara…..

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      Well said Grappler, in addition to a good article.

      We have a government running our country for everyone except Australians, and the best interests of Australia.

      Only foreign corporations, the carpet baggers and the rent seekers the LNP serves, can benefit from reducing us to a banana (primary production) republic.

      Already Coles and Woolworths have broken dairy farmers so Chinese and Gina Reinhart can buy them up.

      It’s Time for the LNP to go. The next government is on notice. Corruption and lies will not be acceptable again.

    • 0
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      That’s interesting, Grappler. So government bonds are ‘not debt at all’. Perhaps you could expand on that.

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      I’ll have to dig up the post on government bonds or find the user and get him to explain it to me again. Not totally up on that.. I think the issue is it is not ‘money borrowed’ but is ‘money retained’ from consolidated revenue or something. I need to check. Not up on everything – need a good staff to do all that….

    • 0
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      hah….. http://australiangovernmentbonds.gov.au/

      It seems bonds are traded on the market, hence do not become a debt. I still need to link that to his discussion point about how this relates to debt, but it seems that bonds, rather than being a debt upon government, are a trading opportuhity to garner revenue, yet are included as debt in budget calculations.

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      This is why I keep trying to educate voters that voting for an Independent is the way forward.
      Both sides of politics hate the thought of losing absolute power and having to listen to those who represent voters instead. This is what Independents bring to the table. This is what the mainstream parties which are crammed with stooges who have no say cannot bear to hear.

    • 0
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      Grappler, of course bonds are traded on the market – no one would buy them if they weren’t. That doesn’t absolve the government from paying periodic interest, and the full face value of the bond to the holder at maturity. Australian governments have so far been able to do that which is why we have a AAA rating. But because of the unwillingness of Labor and the Greens (and most of the commenters at this site) to face economic reality, our bond borrowings will grow and our interest payments will grow thus increasing our deficit further and imperiling that rating. If it slips we pay a greater interest rate. Don’t kid yourself, bonds are very much debt. Just ask Greece or Argentina.

    • 0
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      I’m still young – still learning. Thanks Tombo. I’ll look into this more closely.

    • 0
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      Tombo, Do you know there is a company actually called Dairy Farmers? We need to find another way of expressing our meaning. I admit, I have to do so myself. I have no connection with the company at all. I just want people to be aware of it.

    • 0
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      Tombo mentions “the unwillingness of Labor and the Greens (and most of the commenters at this site) to face economic reality”. It seems to me that most people accept the need for budget restraint but 1. they don’t believe that there was ever a “budget emergency” (even Hockey admitted that), 2. they object to the unfair way the government has been trying to achieve its objectives (hitting the poor more than the rich), and 3. they don’t trust a PM or government that has blatantly and consistently lied to us. The electorate will support a responsible economic management plan that will, in time, bring the budget back into surplus. It has not supported, and won’t, last year’s crock of a budget.

    • 0
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      ghoti, by ‘responsible economic management plan’ I assume you mean one which doesn’t involve you having to pay more for government services.

    • 0
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      Why would you assume that, Tombo? The word “responsible” implies a plan where the burden is shared by everyone (except, perhaps, by the poorest in our society). I would be happy to pay more in taxes provided that those wealthier than me also pay their fair share and that an honest attempt is made to close company tax loopholes.

  5. 0
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    Oh – I await with bated breath what ‘changes’ Ms Ley – one of those ‘more caring’ and ‘bringing a different perspective to the issues’ women….. I doubt it will be anything but more of the same old. Just another party mouthpiece with no real idea and probably not an original thought to add…. but let us wait and see…..

  6. 0
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    SoTony (& his clan) seems to meet with the approval of the Internationalists but proves to be “Stuffing Up” every national issue in an attempt to disadvantage the Australian taxpayer!
    The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the current government – as others before them but not quite to the same OBVIOUS extent – are adhering to the WILL of their foreign masters rather than adhering to the Australian Constitution.
    They certainly are not looking after the “Best interest of Australians” in the Short or long term.
    If such actions were viewed within the context of war, it would not be called any less than treason!

    • 0
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      Looking after the rich and their big business interests where they make their wealth. The rest of us are ants who are only important to elect governments, not to have a say though.

    • 0
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      I know a lady who worked in a family business which assembled, sheds of various sizes using Australian Made Steel – it was stamped on the sheets of steel. They discovered it was a lot cheaper to buy our Australian Steel by the same size container load (and pay the freight) from overseas than buy it from a local company. He contacted the manufacturer to ensure the steel he bought from overseas was genuine. Yes, it was. Who is making the profit there?

  7. 0
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    I my opinion there is only ONE problem which is the cause of all the others.
    The BANKERS – Solve this problem and we will finally live in peace!

    The English & Dutch are certainly “leading the way” in such matters as the following link confirms.
    The Dutch who can be rather “Set in their Ways” even introduced Citizens Initiated Referendum in the 80s which was a MASSIVE STEP towards maintaining/regaining FREEDOM!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1WBhKWJjAk&feature=youtu.be&t=9s

    • 0
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      A referendum in Australia? Wouldn’t that mean that a clear vote would be A MANDATE? We’ll have none of that…..the public having a say?

    • 0
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      I’ve stated elsewhere that we are governed by Quislings and Fifth
      Columnists.. both ‘sides’ of The Tag Team…. both lost in some airy-fairy world of ideas and ideologies that involve selling Australia and Australians out for profit or for ‘international brotherhood of equals’ – equally poor that is for the majority.

      Even raising the costs of living via extra payments for ‘privatised’ roads and such is an insidious scheme. By rendering COL unsustainable, and wages along with them, which are ONLY high by comparison with other countries, pressure is brought to bear on that demon ‘Wage Costs’ – and thus the ideologically bound free range capitalist kind (neo-conservative) feels ’empowered’ to attack this demon of high wages….. but not costs, since to do so would chop mates and cronies out of nice little earners on boards and such who, of course according to the ideology, EARN their magnificent munificence, while the Scum leaners and slackers do not.

    • 0
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      Australia has a sad tradition of being a follower rather than a leader in most areas of life. And then we do the unthinkable with no regard other than today. The latest betrayal from BOTH sides of politics is THE SALE OF FREEHOLD FARMING LAND TO FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS. No thought about the future other than the airy fairy ideology of those who are paid large sums of money to provide the best ideas to governments run by (mostly) brain dead politicians who you wouldn’t trust with a simple errand let alone the running of the nation.

    • 0
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      I consistently state and abide by the simple rule that I would vote for none of them at this time – maybe a few Independents, though I have doubts after the Gillard debacle. It’s not about pork-barreling and swinging a deal to form a government with Independents – it’s about doing right by Australia.

    • 0
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      I understand the frustration but you have to vote for somebody lest you get what we currently have to endure. It is up to people to fix this mess by not being taken in with propaganda coming from the two main parties.
      A friend once told me: “it doesn’t matter who you vote for. Vote for Billy the Blacksmith. There are highly paid public servants who do all the work anyway and politicians only make a choice based on the facts in front of them”
      The conclusion is that pollies really might be able to stumble through with half a brain. Indeed many of those we have fit this bill anyway.
      Voting for an Independent achieves 2 purposes:
      1. It frightens the crap out of Liberal and Labor….which results in their act being cleaned up.
      2. It brings in people who are not stooges filling a seat but with no voice.
      So what you gonna do?????

    • 0
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      mick, in point 1. do you have any evidence where the crap was frightened out of Liberal or Labor on the last 10 years?
      Point 2. whether a stooge or not they still vote, therefor they have a voice. Who are the Independents who are not stooges? I mean apart from Xenaphon and Wilkie?

  8. 0
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    Our Politicians have to much control in things they don’t understand……….Go back to the early days when Hospitals had their own board of directors who control in the running of their hospital………..politicians screw up so many projects and to get out of their mess……THEY SELL PROPERTIES ………WE OWN……… to pay for their bad management…….

    • 0
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      tia-naria,
      Should the expression of “Bad Management” be replaced with “Planned Management”?

    • 0
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      Planned Mismanagement…

    • 0
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      More like no accountability and management which in the public system would see governments in this country in receivership.

    • 0
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      The Scam seems to be:
      1) The Public Resource is totally mismanged (purposely?) so that it’s value is reduced as it becomes a burden rather than an asset
      2) Then this same resource is sold for a very low value to the International Industrialists
      3) Suddenly the resource becomes valuable & extremely profitable again because it is now managed wisely & competently
      4) The Minister who WAS in charge of the management of this resource is now employed by the Industrial complex at a rather excessive salary/remuneration
      CONCLUSION: “This minister must have showed promise in his/her abilities in order to be employed by the Inductrialists!

  9. 0
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    So here is the next nail in the coffin for this government.
    It appears only a matter of time before Tony Abbott goes the way of Kevin Rudd. I wonder if the biased mainstream media with their clear political agenda will treat Abbott’s successor like they did Julia Gillard? I doubt it.

    • 0
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      No matter – his lifetime income for being a total brick for years is secure and he will slip neatly into a few of those lovely ‘board’ positions that just happen to fall from the skies at huge cost to the end user…. again.

  10. 0
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    At last the voice of reason. Why can’t we all have our say and others accept that this is our opinion which we are entitled to as they are to theirs, without the continued aggressive – rude and belittling condemnation just because it does not meet with someone else’s opinion.

    Everyone has a right to expect politeness and civility as after all it is only a place to express ones thoughts and perhaps learn from others. This I find is the most enjoyable part of the site.

    • 0
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      I hope that I am not on your hit list dougie. Whilst I probably qualify my issue is NEVER with the opinion if it is made with an honest belief and not on behalf of a political party: the Liberal Party on this website.
      Have you noticed that the paid trolls have not posted here yet? Tells a story.

    • 0
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      Mick, I do not have a hit list just a sense of justice and free speech for all. I just want people to be able to speak their mind without being ridiculed for their thoughts. The way some people react it seems that we are in a Russian or Nazi environment where to have an individual thought is a crime.

    • 0
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      Hear Hear Dougie . Ill second that. They prey on the human conscience. Not as a strength or weakness but a convenient vulnerability to be exploited. void of compassion for there fellow human being.

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