Attila the Pun
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Friday reading

First up - an interview with Howard by Tony Wright:

On Keating:

The Bulletin: Prime Minister Paul Keating once said Asian leaders would never talk to you, never deal with you.

Prime Minister: Yeah, I remember that.

B: Did that pass through your mind?

PM: No, actually, it didn’t. I don’t think about him [Keating] very much.

On Iraq's election:

The vote – 60%, or whether it’s 65% or the high 50s, I don’t know exactly what the total is – for anyone to vote in those circumstances is quite extraordinary. I think it will change the debate on Iraq because you can’t really go behind the expression of the democratic will. What are the critics going to say? Are they going to say we shouldn’t have had a ballot? Are they going to say we should go back to Saddam?

On political correctness:

“I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to talk about remaking the nation in my image,” he says. “But I do feel I have made a contribution to getting rid of political correctness. The nation is more confident and assertive and there is a greater sense of self-belief about our national identity. We don’t fuss about that stuff any more; we don’t have this endless seminar on our national identity anymore. I mean, we still debate certain issues and we’ll debate them until kingdom come, but I think the country is more sure-footed in its relations with the rest of the world.”

On Patriotism:

PM: I think Australians have become, in expression of their patriotism, both more confident and less inhibited. It’s not that the earlier generations weren’t patriotic – they were. But I think we find our own level with those things. I have never believed for a moment this country should be ashamed of where it came from or what it stood for. In the past, it’s made mistakes – of course it has, like any nation. It did go through a period 10 or 15 years ago when we were basically being told by certain people to apologise for our past; that if you didn’t believe in overthrowing a lot of things from your past, we weren’t being good, modern international citizens and I think there’s a lot about the past and the tradition of this country that you can draw on as a national leader. I just believe in the pursuit of Australia’s national interests. I believe Australians are an overwhelmingly warm-hearted decent people; they’re very capable, very adaptable and they have a great capacity in emergencies and disasters to pull together in a practical way.

Apart from the dyed in the wool Howard haters, is there much in that paragraph that a lot of Australians wouldnt agree with (people particularly enjoy having their national ego stroked)? Can you imagine Latham rattling off something like that and it not appear horribly staged? Beazley might be able to give it a go, but now he is trying to pull off the "Beazley - attack dog with plenty of ticker" act, I doubt he would give it a go.

On the UN:

I wouldn’t say the United Nations has failed over the tsunami – that would be unfair,” he says. “But what the tsunami has demonstrated very sharply is that we still live in a world of nation-states. It is nation-states, having the immediate capacity through their executive governments to send troops, to send aid and to send other assets to help stricken communities. If the world had said we don’t do anything about the tsunami until the UN has discussed it and so forth, we’d have been waiting weeks. Not because there is anything wrong with ... I’m not criticising the UN. It’s just by its very nature it doesn’t have an executive capacity.”

Nail. Hit. Head. If we had waited for the UN, we would have been waiting for weeks, and then the UN would have had to appeal to the US and Australia for men and equipment anyway. He is careful not to bag the UN, but you can tell how much respect, or otherwise, he has for it.

On tax reform:

“Oh, everybody believes in lower tax. Nothing wrong with that. I think we all do,” he says. “And if opportunities present themselves, we’ll reduce the tax burden. You’re preaching to the converted. When anything like that is addressed to Peter Costello or me, we both believe in it. I’d like to have further tax relief during this term. It depends on the economic or budget position.”

Proof is in the pudding John - pony up some more income tax reform (read "cuts") and your legacy is assured....

Next is an article in the spectator (free registration required) regarding health care. It is an item of faith among many that the US health system is horribly unfair, and that unless you are rich you have no chance of receiving adequate care. This is contrasted with the Australian (and British) nationalised system, where everybody is treated equally. Now compare the results (as measured by your chances of survival):

The answer is clear. If you are a woman with breast cancer in Britain, you have (or at least a few years ago you had, since all medical statistics are a few years old) a 46 per cent chance of dying from it. In America, your chances of dying are far lower — only 25 per cent. Britain has one of the worst survival rates in the advanced world and America has the best.

If you are a man and you are diagnosed as having cancer of the prostate in Britain, you are more likely to die of it than not. You have a 57 per cent chance of departing this life. But in America you are likely to live. Your chances of dying from the disease are only 19 per cent. Once again, Britain is at the bottom of the class and America at the top.

How about colon cancer? In Britain, 40 per cent survive for five years after diagnosis. In America, 60 per cent do. With cancer of the oesophagus, survival rates are low all round the world. In Britain, a mere 7 per cent of patients live for five years after diagnosis. In America, the survival rate is still low, but much better at 12 per cent.


In Britain 36 per cent of patients have to wait more than four months for non-emergency surgery. In the US a mere 5 per cent do. While in Britain the government celebrates if the waiting times get a bit lower, in America they don’t do waiting.

But isn't that just the rich?

‘Ah yes,’ comes the knowing response, ‘but what about the poor? The rich might get great care in America, but the good thing about the NHS is that everyone gets treated equally. The care is, in the hallowed phrase, “free at the point of delivery”.’

His response:

Before going into any detail, let us remember one thing: all those figures at the start about death rates from various forms of cancer were not just for the rich. They were for the whole population, poor included. That said, yes, it is true that American healthcare is expensive. It is true, too, that the financial burden on people is awesomely unequal; but not in the way you might expect. The seriously poor do not get the worst of it. They get treated for free.

It is the middle income to poor that cop it - too rich to get medicaid, too young to get medicare, too poor to afford insurance, and not covered by company health care. They can cop it in the neck:

The numbers are not large in relation to the whole population. We are talking about a minority of the American population — figures of 35–45 million are mentioned — which is not insured and which is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Of that minority only a small proportion will need fairly long-term hospital treatment. But financial disaster can happen and sometimes does. People lose their homes, their savings, everything. Half the bankruptcies in America are people who had previously been ill. In Britain the system might kill you. In America the system will keep you alive but might bankrupt you.

The US system is also a mish-mash of city run private hospitals, charity hospitals and for-profit private hospitals. Compare (here) to the British state run system:

But the curious thing is that the new, improved, simple state system of Britain does not work as well as the American muddle. You have a better chance of living to see another day in the American mishmash non-system with its sweet pills of charity, its dose of municipal care and large injection of rampant capitalist supply (even despite the blanket of over-regulation) than in the British system where the state does everything. It is not that America is good at running healthcare. It is just that British state-run healthcare is so amazingly, achingly, miserably and mortally incompetent.

Having had no experience with the US system, I admit to have unconsciously absorbed the "heathcare only for the rich" meme to a certain degree. It is interesting to read a counterpoint to that.

Another interesting article would be one comparing US v British dental care. Pretty much every American i have met (they have all presumably been mostly middle class) had almost perfect teeth. Compare this to a lot of Brits (also middle and upper middle class) whose teeth somtimes leave a lot to be desired. British teeth are actually a running gag in the US when they are playing on stereotypes. It seems that Australia's chompers fall somewhere in the middle. Any chance that state run dental care has a hand in this as well?

Hey, cool blog you got here. I'm a nut case surfer, but l know what I like.
Have a good one!
Always looking for Dental Care!
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