Threat to resurrect anti-tax ads

THE Gillard government faces a re-emergence of the mining tax wars, with mid-size miners threatening to launch an advertising blitz in marginal seats as early as this weekend.The outspoken chief executive of the Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew Forrest, said yesterday that he did not contribute to the previous advertising campaign, paid for by the minerals giants.But with the industry group, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies – which represents Fortescue and other mid-size companies – saying yesterday there was likely to be a campaign, Mr Forrest said he would join in.”I will definitely support AMEC,” he said.The renewed assault against the tax by Mr Forrest and the head of the mining association, Simon Bennison, preceded a visit to Perth today by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, his first of the election campaign.After replacing Kevin Rudd four weeks ago, Julia Gillard placated the minerals giants – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – by amending the tax. But the smaller iron ore and coal miners had no say in the negotiations, which produced a tax tailor-made for the big players and which eradicated $1.1 billion in exploration rebates.The big miners dropped their advertising campaign, taking pressure off the government and enabling Ms Gillard to call an election.But the smaller players have decided to ramp up their disdain.”A campaign could realistically be rolled out as soon as this weekend,” Mr Bennison said yesterday at a press conference with Mr Forrest.The campaign would run in marginal seats in at least Western Australia and Queensland. Mr Forrest will be in Queensland today to drum up support from fellow players, including, it is understood, Clive Palmer.The timing of the renewed assault follows revelations that Labor and the Greens have done a preferences deal that could see the Greens win the balance of power in the Senate.The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said on Wednesday that if this turned out to be the case, and Labor won the election, he would want to strengthen the mining tax to extract more from the miners.The statement played into the hands of the Coalition, which has been claiming a Greens-Labor alliance in the Senate would produce a boosted mining tax.Ms Gillard has already pledged not to alter the tax as agreed with the minerals giants.Mr Forrest attacked Senator Brown yesterday, saying his intentions were at odds with the Greens support for indigenous Australians.Mr Forrest said the bulk of indigenous employment in the mining sector was provided by the ”growth projects”.”If he duds them, he pushes them straight back onto welfare,” Mr Forrest said.”Miners have greater care for the environment and Aboriginal people that you’ll ever have,” he said of Senator Brown.Senator Brown said Mr Forrest should run for Parliament to test public support for his policies.”Let’s book the Great Hall and have a full-on public debate about who owns Australia’s mineral resources and what is a fair tax to fund the nation’s future education, health and public transport needs,” he said.The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said the ”insidious” preference deal was causing renewed uncertainty in the mining sector.
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Medicare rebate ludicrous

A LOCAL doctor has described the Medicare Care rebate as being ludicrous, claiming general practitioners are better off in the hospital system than in private practice.
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Dr Jim Blackwood, from the Busby Medical Practice, says the rebate for doctors is too low and does little to lure general practitioners to the bush.

“Based on an hourly basis it (the rebate) is not sufficient to provide reasonable remuneration for a professional person,” he said.

“Most GPs could be earning much more by going back to the hospital system. In private practice we don’t get any long service, superannuation or sick leave.

“It’s purely a business decision and the Federal Government really has got look what the rate is.

“At present the bulk billing rebate is $24.45 and if a GP sees four patients an hour patients hour this works out to $100.

“Take half this out in practice costs then allow for every four hours consulting one hour’s paperwork generated, that drops our wage down to $40 an hour with no superannuation, sick pay or holiday pay.”

Dr Blackwood’s comments follow claims from Bathurst MP Gerard Martin that greater incentives for local GPs to introduce bulk-billing would help lure doctors to regional destinations such as Bathurst.

With limited choice of bulk billing in Bathurst, the Member for Bathurst Gerard Martin is supporting a move to increase Medicare rebates for doctors in regional areas.

This follows NSW Labor’s commitment to back its federal counterparts in an effort to lift bulk-billing rates in rural NSW which are way below the national average of 73 per cent.

He said rural families are paying up to $20 a visit out of their own pockets to see a doctor, while their Sydney counterparts were paying nothing.

“It’s not fair that people in rural areas should be at a disadvantage in something as important as health services just because of where they live,” Mr Martin said.

“Figures I have from NSW Health claim that 60.9 per cent of doctors services in the Central West are bulk-billed, but I don’t think Bathurst is anywhere near this figure,” he said.

“The city would be lucky to have a couple of places who bulk bill which is a poor showing for a place Bathurst’s size.

“This in turn puts added pressure on the emergency department at Bathurst Base Hospital because people who should be going to the doctor head up there with minor ailments.”

Dr Blackwood said most general practices in Bathurst ask private paying patients to subsidise bulk-billing for pensioners and health care card holders as a service for the community.

“In some country towns they churn patients through just to make the money, but in Bathurst we are more conscietious and not prepared to do that,” he said.

“In short, the system is ludicrous. Asking people to work for $40 hour after nine or 10 years professional training with the risk of being sued is not worth our while.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Signs point to Neal standing

THE signs are there that Belinda Neal will contest the federal election as an independent. While she says she has yet to decide whether to run, sources have told the Herald she has commissioned signs saying: ”Belinda Neal: Independent for Robertson”.It is understood the signs have been completed and are ready to be hung on Ms Neal’s Woy Woy electorate office when she gives the go-ahead.In March, Ms Neal lost Labor preselection to Deborah O’Neill and has been foxing for several weeks about whether she would try to hold the central coast seat as an independent.Yesterday, she attended a function at Gosford with Ms O’Neill and the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong.Afterwards, she told the Herald she had yet to decide her future. But a senior source said the signs had been manufactured locally and were ready to go. Ms Neal funds her Woy Woy office so she would not be breaching any rules regarding entitlements by changing the signage. Her Gosford office is taxpayer-funded.Ms Neal has continued to fuel speculation by remaining active in the seat and recently employing a new media secretary.If she decides to run, it would be the end of her association with the Labor Party and would most likely also spell the end of the career of her husband, the Labor stalwart John Della Bosca.”His position is pretty perilous now,” said a party source yesterday. ”This will be the end.”The Labor Party does not tolerate its members either running against a Labor candidate or supporting such a run.Ms Neal has until next Thursday, when nominations close, to make her announcement but it is believed to be imminent.Labor holds Robertson with an ultra-slim margin of 0.1 per cent, making it one of the four most marginal Labor seats in the country.Internal polling shows Ms O’Neill is in a competitive position. While Ms Neal would not be expected to win the seat, the distribution of her preferences would be crucial to the final result.Until the emergence of the signs, Labor sources thought Ms Neal would not run but was just stringing out the decision to damage the party’s chances.Ms Neal took Robertson from the Liberal minister Jim Lloyd at the 2007 election. Her career faltered in June 2008 after an altercation with staff at Iguana’s bar in Gosford and subsequent attempts at a cover-up.Mr Della Bosca, a member of the NSW Legislative Council and once feared ALP powerbroker, has twice been forced to stand down from the ministry in the past two years.
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