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Issue #1733      June 1, 2016


“Telstra wins deal to manage cancer records” ran the headline in Sydney Morning Herald (May 26, 2016). I do not remember any discussion with the federal government on the possibility of sensitive, private medical records being put under corporate management of the company who regularly transfers jobs overseas. The Turnbull government has awarded the contract to manage a new national cancer screening register from next year. It is a very lucrative contract for Telstra, bringing in an estimated $180 million over three years. At the moment a number of small not-for-profit organisations carry out this work. Telstra Health is planning to expand into the field of healthcare information management but it does not seem to have any expertise in the field. According to the SMH article, Telstra had approached Victoria Cytology Service “for access to its expertise, staff, and other resources to enable it to get the new national register up and running by May 1, 2017”. Telstra has problems with providing reliable telephone connection, which is supposed to be its core function. I don’t think many patients would be happy with this deal. Keep it in mind when you vote!

The Salvation Army has surveyed 1,600 people who sought assistance from the charity and was shocked to discover the level of poverty driven by growing housing costs. Never mind “jobs and growth” election slogans. Respondents with children were left with $14-$16 a day after paying rent for their shelter. One in five parents could not afford medical treatment for their children (let alone themselves) and two in five could not afford regular dental treatment. “The results from this extensive survey are utterly shameful,” said the Salvation Army’s Major Bruce Harmer. “It shows the real level of struggle taking place in our ‘lucky country’.” It is estimated that 2.5 million Australians live in poverty.

Malcolm Turnbull and his government are not having much luck at the moment. Recently there was a lot of jubilation in marginal seats in South Australia and in the military about the submarines: $50 billion of taxpayers’ money to build 12 submarines went to French shipbuilder DCNS and it was presented to the Australia public as a great achievement. But now it appears that somebody had failed to exercise due diligence in checking out what kind of company DCNS is. It turns out French prosecutors allege DCNS is being investigated over bribery allegations in Malaysia. They allege the company was involved in “active bribery of foreign public officials” to win a much smaller US$2 billion contract back on 2002 to build two submarines for Malaysia. The company had paid for what it coyly called “technical assistance” to some officials in Malaysia. Another French company with close ties to Australian military, Thales, is also under investigation. In October last year Mr Turnbull announced that Thales would build a $1.3 billion fleet of armoured four-wheel-drive vehicles in Victoria. Given the track record of these companies one wonders how much “technical assistance” may have been provided here in Australia.

Next article – Culture & Life – A rigged system

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