Cross Post: Terry Barnes Every cloud has a silver lining

Notwithstanding investigations under way into stood-aside Health minister Sussan Ley’s touching fondness for the Gold Coast, it now appears she has crossed the line on survivability.

Yesterday’s revelation by Fairfax reporters that Ley spent more than $13,000 of our money to self-pilot charter planes on mainline air routes, instead of taking far cheaper commercial flights, is utterly unjustifiable.  It crosses the line of credibility.

As the evidence of Ley’s travel splurging mounts, and the questions around it multiply, she shouldn’t wait for the secretary of the Prime Minister’s department to report: she should accept the inevitable and resign.

But if she does, it’s a blessing in disguise for the Turnbull government. Ley was the Minister for Mediscare.  Having achieved what she was put there for in early 2015, kill off the 2014 budget’s GP co-payment, rebuild burnt bridges with the AMA and take health off the front pages – all of which she did to some degree – Ley hit the ground reviewing but did little else. As a result, the Coalition has had no coherent health policy agenda for two years.

The blatant lies of Bill Shorten’s Mediscare worked for Labor because there was a policy vacuum on the Government’s side: the Coalition had no credible counter because it had no coherent health policy narrative of its own.

With the Prime Minister, Ley must take responsibility for her outstanding contribution to the Coalition’s near-loss, and for the fact that since the election the Government has shown little indication it’s heard the electorate’s message.

In her time as health minister, Ley administered but did not lead.  Unlike her unfairly-maligned predecessor Peter Dutton, she did not push hard enough against powerful vested interests like the AMA or the Pharmacy Guild to achieve better deals for Australian taxpayers.  Under Ley, those vested interests have defined the healthcare agenda, not the minister.

Ley’s much-hyped reforms of private health insurance amount to little more than a fluffy colour chart of policies based on their restrictions and exclusions, while leaving untouched the doctors, hospitals and other price-gouging providers whose avarice drives exclusions and spiraling premiums.  And her important expert review of the Medicare schedule has been strung out to give the appearance of doing something, while not confronting the AMA and other Medicare rent-seekers with actual decisions.

Ley and her office were seen by the healthcare sector and industry analysts as insular and out of touch.  Especially after the success of Mediscare, respect for them already was low, and if she does somehow survive this, it will evaporate.

When you’re asking tough and powerful buggers like the AMA and the Pharmacy Guild to tighten their belts while yours has fallen round your knees, you have no credibility.  Ley must know it, and Malcolm Turnbull likewise.

Sussan Ley is a dud.  She was over-promoted by Tony Abbott and did nothing for Turnbull except vote for him in September 2015.  She has been a major political liability for the Government, a passenger rather than a contributor.

She didn’t deserve reappointment as health minister after the election, and her travel trouble means that can now be rectified: there are talented policy thinkers and competent administrators who can take her place in the Health portfolio and Cabinet, and do a far better job than her in cauterising the self-inflicted wounds of Mediscare.

Sussan Ley was a bad minister who did a crapulous job. She will not be missed.

Terry Barnes is a former senior adviser to Howard government health ministers. This op-ed first appeared in The Spectator.

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42 Responses to Cross Post: Terry Barnes Every cloud has a silver lining

  1. Philippa Martyr

    Well, for once I agree with Terry Barnes.

    2017 is already turning out to be a year of surprises.

  2. RobK

    Harsh but fair. The proper response.

  3. John Carpenter

    The AMA is a price fixing cartel whose only objective is the absolute maximisation of doctors incomes.

  4. Roger

    crapulous

    Was she given to over indulging in liquor as well as expenses?

  5. john constantine

    We must have quotawymynsys, or you are racist.

  6. candy

    I think she did an average job. The AMA is the toughest union in Australia, simply because they hold the cards. Of saving peoples lives and healing people. No government can fight that kind of blackmail!

    The thing is, with the government having Centrelink hounding the most vulnerable for small monies owing and in many cases not owing at all, a clerical error, from 2010 – any travel allowance rort is looked on right now very very unfavourably. Ms Ley was caught in her greed, but probably no worse than many others.

  7. Petros

    The AMA has been captured by the left. Only about half of all doctors in Oz are members. It used to be respected. Brian Owler is a complete Labor stooge. A GP co-payment was very sensible but political dynamite. They should just freeze the medicare rebates for GP visits. Even in a number of the socialist countries of Europe you pay a small fee to see a GP.

  8. Empire GTHO Phase III

    The AMA is a price fixing cartel whose only objective is the absolute maximisation of doctors incomes.

    It is so much more than that.

    The AMA wants to seize sovereignty of our bodies and take a permanent seat at the table.

  9. Empire GTHO Phase III

    The AMA is the toughest union in Australia, simply because they hold the cards. Of saving peoples lives and healing people.

    Propaganda.

  10. Zyconoclast

    The AMA is a price fixing cartel whose only objective is the absolute maximisation of doctors incomes

    That fourth holiday home doesn’t pay for itself.

  11. Ross B

    It’s just possible Ley believed in numerology to the extent she decided there was something mystical about parliamentary travel costs with big fat five digit amounts involved. Beyond that she seems to have taken too far the normally reasonable view that her chromosome sequence would shield her from all lines of inquiry into expensively skewed travel habits.
    I really must be missing something, tell me I am, but I have absolutely no idea what the Turnbull government is all about. I mean – what exactly is it for beyond these pathetic cretins clinging haplessly to the disintegrating one-seat life-buoy thrown to them at the last election?

  12. wal1957

    “Sussan Ley was a bad minister who did a crapulous job. She will not be missed.”

    She’s not the only crapulous minister who won’t be missed after the next election.

  13. Matthew

    Susssan was also the minister for sport. No better in that job by the way. Just to add to the narrative

  14. Motelier

    …there are talented policy thinkers and competent administrators who can take her place in the Health portfolio and Cabinet, and do a far better job than her in cauterising the self-inflicted wounds of Mediscare.

    Bring out ya dead!

    I have to disagree, I can’t think of one person on the LNP side that fits that statement.

    Justvwalking zombie that are TO STUPID TO SURVIVE

  15. BFS

    I don’t comment much these days, but can I just make a comparison with the Victorian Liberals and their Federal counterparts. In Victoria, where a feckless liberal govt. sold the farm, we now have a bold marxist state govt………things are lining up for a repeat on a national level….at least the risk is on the horizon. I’m sure others can see what’s happening.

    The saving grace is Australia will be forced to fall into line with the new Conservatives in the USA…..I think…based on a difficult financial based situation. (just my 2 cents).

  16. BrettW

    Much has been made of her ability to fly in articles I have read but now it appears it has cost taxpayers for the privilege of having her fly herself on routes that were apparently mainstream. It might be different if for example she flew herself to a remote Flying Drs Base to check facilities and meet the RFDS staff etc.

    Totally agree that she should resign rather than wait for any inquiry result. It no longer matters what the PM’s inquiries turn up as the public knows enough already and has made up its mind.

    The problem is that PM’s in these situations always delay the inevitable. I get being loyal to your Ministers but MT waiting any longer on this is just losing more credibility and voters. She should be called in and the facts of life explained and told to resign. Her rorts were main front page Courier Mail story on two consecutive days that I saw and that does not count editorial, letters and cartoons. She has damaged the LNP and the Coalition at a time when every vote counts as well as got Coalition off to a bad start to the year.

    Even if she was the best Minister in the Cabinet it is no defence for the rorts.

  17. pbw

    But she’s a woman! Only John Constantine has mentioned this outstanding qualification.
    She will have to be replaced by another one, or preferably two, in the interests of equality.

  18. allan

    add to her poor record in health what she did for sport. She presided over ASADA tramelling the rights of 34 Essendon footballers. ASADA lost the case when two Australian judges found the players innocent. instead of appealing to an Australian tribunal using Australian legal principles, ASADA went off to WADA, gave it $US 100,000 pluse use of ASADA’s lawyers to prosecute the players before a tribunal comprising people with links to WADA. All this happened under Ley’s watch and with her full support. It was a disgraceful act by an incompetent Minister.

  19. struth

    But but, she is a she.
    Very important.
    Can’t have people that perform when you need a certain number of life support systems for a smoo.

  20. James

    The current ministers are “managers”, not a leader amongst them . Leadership means vision communication and execution. It starts at the top , and the sponge cake PM is the definition of a ditherer. Doesn’t have the nous or courage to take anything on . Can’t recall a pm , regardless of their stripe who has been such a complete conviction vacuum . In politics if you stand still you are going backwards. This country’s political direction has become a dirty cesspit of inaction.
    Turnbull is the Stephen Bradbury of Australian politics.

  21. Art Vandelay

    In her time as health minister, Ley administered but did not lead. Unlike her unfairly-maligned predecessor Peter Dutton, she did not push hard enough against powerful vested interests like the AMA or the Pharmacy Guild to achieve better deals for Australian taxpayers. Under Ley, those vested interests have defined the healthcare agenda, not the minister.

    The Abbott government would have caved to the Pharmacy Guild back in 2015 regardless of who was the Health Minister at the time. They were hopeless.

    The 2015 Community Pharmacy Agreement completely dudded consumers and taxpayers (as was the case with all the previous Agreements signed under Labor and the craven Howard governments). Our politicians from all major parties are incompetent and greedy particularly when it comes to dealing with vested interests.

  22. James

    And if you create a vacuum you enable imposters like Shorten to make noise . Abbott , with all his flaws , would have torn that dirty little lying socialist fraud to pieces in election mode .
    Mao avoided IR , border security and spending cuts just because they were TA’s home ground ( and TA didn’t do it that well either ) ,and his ego couldn’t wear the idea of playing a team game if it meant a continuum of his predecessor’s narrative. It was an excruciating and disgraceful performance. Lazy fuck.
    Shame on the liberal jelly backs .. they’ll get what they deserve .
    Unfortunately we’ll all get what we don’t deserve when the left filth take charge .

  23. JohnA

    Cory Bernardi for Health Minister.

  24. Ray

    Barnes had me agreeing with him for a moment. Ley has achieved nothing except surrender to special interest groups. She id a dud.

    However, then came this “… there are talented policy thinkers and competent administrators who can take her place in the Health portfolio and Cabinet …”. Who exactly? Which of these “talented policy thinkers” has been proposing to reform Medicare or the PBS or our outmoded means of funding public hospitals?

  25. max

    Terry needs a dictionary.

    So does Sussan.

  26. Herodotus

    1. Resign? Like which Labor minister? Burke, Bowen, Shorten, all prime examples of expenses profligacy.
    2. More controversially, why do we need more women in the ministry?

  27. Dianeh

    Abbott is available to take on the position of health minister.

    I am disappointed in Ley. I thought she was better than that, more honest. I can admit when I am wrong. Why can’t she?

  28. Mother Lode

    1. Resign? Like which Labor minister? Burke, Bowen, Shorten, all prime examples of expenses profligacy.

    Well, she shouldn’t be allowed to stay.

    But you do raise the point that the Libs allow Labor to get away with doing the very same things.

    I guess part of the problem is Mal. Remember in the last election when Labor was putting about the Mediscare thing, and Turnbull said afterward that he didn’t want to campaign on negatives? What a quivering fop. He was happy for Australians to be lied to and to damage his parties fortunes so he didn’t have to say something impolite.

    The rest of the problem is that the Libs are the fop’s sops.

    They should be barging into his office wielding cluebats (the ones with the nails sticking out) and insisting they be allowed to fight back.

    But they are just too sodding gutless.

  29. Zulu Kilo Die Onuitspeeklike

    Cory Bernardi for Health Minister.

    Andrew Hastie, Ex -Captain, Special Air Service Regiment, for Health Minister.

  30. Mother Lode
    #2259219, posted on January 12, 2017 at 7:51 am
    But you do raise the point that the Libs allow Labor to get away with doing the very same things.
    But they are just too sodding gutless.

    Yep.
    Even when they are given the ammunition they are too scared to use it.
    Taxpayers paid more for Bill Shorten’s family to travel with him in the lead-up to last year’s election than they spent on the family travel of Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in the last three elections combined.

    The Opposition Leader’s claim of $51,531 for the six months to June 2016 compares with $14,441 for the Prime Minister during the same period, $14,337 for Tony Abbott in the second half of 2010 and $11,080 for Abbot­t in the second half of 2010.
    Baxendale in The Oz is doing a good job of reporting all rorts.

  31. Garry

    Another day, another example of corruption in politics. And corruption is exactly what it is regardless of what the so called rules they play by say! There seem to be two types of politicians – those that have found to be corrupt and those that have not yet been caught out. Best case scenerio at the next federal election would be a completely hung parliament with Hanson holding a strong balance. We might see a bit of action on quite a few things like the rorting of allowances, this halal certification tax joke, the current pandering to a dangerous and vocal minority in our midst and the return of free speech by getting rid of the ridiculous 18C. Oh! Almost forgot – shutting down the climate change scam and getting back to cheap and efficient coal fired power instead of supporting this crazy green agenda! Pauline sure has a big job to do. Hope Corey is willing to help her? But I’m dreaming aren’t I? We still have the useless senate to deal with and there are too many vested interests inside and outside of government to let any of the above happen.

  32. Rohan

    Roger
    #2258939, posted on January 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm
    crapulous

    Was she given to over indulging in liquor as well as expenses?

    I would have said craptastic.

  33. Dr Faustus

    The examples of Burke, Bowen, Plibersek don’t count for much unless Turnbull plans to argue that Ley can stay on as minister. They are demonstrably laughing at the few remaining taxpayers in the electorate; but that just highlights that the parliamentary entitlements system is a feeding trough for thieving scum – not that Ley was operating within acceptable norms.

  34. Gordon Rowland

    In 2015, after reading Prof. Peter Gøtzsche’s 2013 book ‘Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare’, I wrote to Health Minister Sussan Ley. As Prof. Gøtzsche reveals, pharmaceutical companies’ sales teams (‘educators’) befriend and bribe influential individuals and organisations, including regulatory agencies, while pharmaceutical company research departments often manipulate trial protocols and falsify research findings.

    I asked Ms Ley: ‘Do you seriously expect adult Australians to trust a political establishment with shameful conflicts-of-interest, an establishment that prohibits the planet’s most useful, versatile, non-toxic herb, cannabis, on spurious ‘health/safety’ grounds; while taking bribes – ‘donations’ – from the ‘toxic trio’: alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco corporations, all with vested interests in maintaining the status quo?’

    [Edited. Sinc]

  35. La Deplorevole Tintarella di Luna

    She supported the Termite of course she’s crapulous as well as treacherous and any number of other words ending with the suffix – ous

  36. Lauriesienna

    20 trips to the Gold Coast.. that den of poor health !

    She wouldn’t even know where Sheffield, Tasmania is…. it’s the place where she zapped our award winning Community Health Centre… It was part of the reason why Sheffield won the Australian Tidy Town 2 years ago.

    Neither her nor ANY other Liberal Politician, State or Federal bothered to come to the meeting held here.

    Lambie and the ALP did and this will be remembered in Kentish in the future. The fight to save to centre is far from over and it will not be going away within this close knit community.

    The cost , incidentally….$340,000 for 8.000 people.

  37. Zyconoclast

    She wouldn’t even know where Sheffield, Tasmania is…. it’s the place where she zapped our award winning Community Health Centre…

    Sheffield is a town 23 kilometres inland from Devonport on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Sheffield has long been the rural hub for the Mount Roland area. The Sheffield area is well known for its high quality butterfat production via dairy farming. The area is suitable for lamb and beef production. The town of Railton is nearby. At the 2006 census, Sheffield had a population of 1,397.(from Wiki)

  38. Eyrie

    Just assume all politicians are criminal psycho/sociopaths. You may find, now and again, the odd one who isn’t but you won’t be disappointed by them if you do this.

  39. Dr Fred Leni

    Sack her then disband the department sacking the staff from the PS ‘,it doesnt even run a clinic let alone a hospital . Then education next on the scaffold it doesnt have one school . Went thru government departments and authorities ,more than half of them could be done without, ,and that was only federal , the states and local govermn]ents are the same . For example ,immigration ,should be federal only states and local government should keep out of it or the councillors and caree politicians should pay for it themselves _that would terminate that sjws dont pay for anything themselves . As for legal actions by migrants and activites make them pay ALL legal costs that could put a stop to that crap ,unless the untidy nayshum]ns communists would pay ? I think not !

  40. Old Surfie

    I used to be a rusted on Liberal, but I now think they are as bad as the other mob. I thought Sussan Ley was ok, but how silly is she to get herself tied up in all this when they must know they are being watched. If you knew you were under the microscope, wouldn’t make you determined to be squeaky clean? Used to think Julie Bishop was alright – but she’s become a clothes horse turning up at every bunfight here and os with the boyfriend in tow. Saw here photographed recently at some do cuddling up to that idiot Geoffrey Edelstein (dressed in a yellow suit) and his latest bimbo.
    How does that “champion of the workers” Tony Burke get away with his $250,000 trip around the world with the new girlfriend from his own office after he gave mum and the kids the big A. Wonder if mum still votes Labor?
    I wouldn’t have a clue who to vote for anymore – no wonder they all climb over the top of each other to get a spot on the ballot paper. Our bloke here on the Sunshine Coast was everywhere prior to the election – haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since he got in.

  41. amortiser

    The reason there is such high costs in the health sector apart from restraint of trade is the massive cost of professional indemnity insurance. When obstetricians and gynaecologists have to pay six figure sums for premiums it is little wonder that patients face big out of pocket costs.

    The courts have done a great disservice to this country by making what are essentially welfare decisions in negligence claims. There are unfortunate outcomes in health matters which have nothing to do with the standard of care provided by the practitioner.

    The standard which should be applied should be what would a competent practitioner do in the circumstances.

    This is the area of medicine where major reform is required to the benefit of all.

  42. Petros

    A good point, Amortiser. Most Australians would not want to relinquish the right to sue their doctor. Good luck trying to do that in countries with heavily socialised medicine. Very hard to do under the French based legal systems and also in the UK.

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