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09 April 2015

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Federal Government kicks Tasmanians in the teeth and eyes

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will join dentist and optometrist professional bodies to warn of the disastrous impact of Federal Government cuts to allied health funding on the health of Tasmanians.

Mr Wilkie said as debate raged on the now-shelved GP co-payment, the Federal Government had introduced a co-payment by stealth on optometry services and was giving no guarantees on funding for dental services in next month’s federal budget.

``The move to introduce a co-payment and freeze payments to GPs turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

``The cut to optometry is already in place while the threat to dentistry is all the more real considering Prime Minister Tony Abbott is on the public record saying dentistry should not be part of Medicare. The fact is that the much anticipated increase in Commonwealth funding for dentistry in Tasmania was not forthcoming in last year’s federal budget.’’

A five percent reduction in the Medicare rebate for optometry services was introduced in January and indexation has been frozen. Anecdotally this has forced optometrists in Tasmania to introduce co-payments of between $5 and $40 and other practices to consider their viability.

Also in Tasmania, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is becoming increasingly concerned the Federal Government will cease its contribution to public dentistry. The ADA fears this would leave Oral Health Services Tasmania with a depleted workforce and reduce their efforts to continue reducing public dental wait lists.

Mr Wilkie said the Federal Government must reverse the reduction in the Medicare rebate for optometry services and guarantee funding for dental.

``Tasmania has the worst adult oral health of all states so any cuts to the public dental service will be hardest felt here,’’ he said.

``Tasmanians are also among the least able to afford a co-payment to see an optometrist so many will put off getting their eyes treated as they can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses. There is no doubt these cuts to allied health will have a disastrous impact on the health of Tasmanians and they must be stopped.’’

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02 April 2015

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A statement on Clubs Australia’s accusation that I’m a liar

The poker machine industry is truly shameless, and the claim today by Clubs Australia that I'm a liar is misleading in the extreme and defamatory.

Clubs Australia has sought to use the latest Tasmanian Government Social and Economic Impact Study of Gambling in Tasmania to debunk claims attributed to me about the harmful effects of poker machines.

Problem is Clubs Australia is plain wrong.

Clubs Australia accuses me of misleadingly claiming problem gamblers account for 40 per cent of total expenditure. But the fact is this is the Productivity Commission’s assessment of the proportion of poker machine revenue lost by problem gamblers, as contained in its 2010 report into problem gambling, and is not relevant to gambling losses more broadly.

Clubs Australia accuses me of misleadingly claiming that gambling impacts on people who can least afford it. But the fact is that the Productivity Commission found that 30 per cent of people who play the pokies weekly are problem gamblers or at risk of becoming so. By implication many are indeed employed which is consistent with the latest Tasmanian Government report. That someone has a job does not in itself prevent them from losing more than they can afford.

Clubs Australia also accuses me of misleadingly claiming that gambling makes no net contribution to the economy. The fact is the Tasmanian report said that ``this economic modelling did not consider the value of non-economic impacts associated with gambling (e.g. health and wellbeing)’’. Separate Tasmanian Government research shows that the gross cost to the community of poker machine problem gambling is at least twice the value of the relevant tax take to the Government.

The bottom line remains that poker machines are diabolically dangerous products that hurt countless Australians and for the industry to claim otherwise is patently absurd. Equally absurd is that the poker machine industry refuses to embrace any meaningful reform that would effectively diminish problem gambling.

Clubs Australia should have paid more attention to the new Tasmanian Government report because if it had it would have seen the important conclusion that ``between 2011 and 2013 there was no significant change in the estimated proportion of the Tasmanian adult population identified as being either a moderate risk or problem gambler’’. In other words, despite all the claims by governments and the pokies industry that their approach to harm minimisation works, the fact is they’ve done nothing to actually help problem gamblers.

The poker machine industry destroys individual lives, destroys families, and is bad for the both the community and the economy. For it to claim otherwise is to continue to treat the public as mugs and deeply offensive.

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27 March 2015

The Wilkie Report March 2015
Author: Andrew Wilkie Australia's Mandatory Metadata Retention Bill March 2015

The Wilkie Report March 2015

Mandatory metadata retention - an unwarranted extension of the powers of state and of limited benefit to security.

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