Petition to Keep Referrals to Social Workers and Occupational Therapists Eligible for Medicare in Australia

As a followup to my previous blog post there is now a petition (PDF) to ask the Australian Government to keep referrals to OT’s and social workers eligible for Medicare, which Donna has blogged about. If you do grab the PDF and print it out – and I would urge you to do so if you are in Australia, they need 10,000 signatures for it to be tabled – then please also have a covering note to explain why it’s so important. Donna writes:


1 in 150 people in Australia are diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. 90% of adults on the autism spectrum have experienced bullying. Many are forced out of school early due to depression, anxiety disorders and breakdown. As adults those in this population will be significantly more at risk of social isolation, dislocation from their community, unemployment, and homelessness than the general population.

Around 1/3rd of adults on the autism spectrum will become diagnosed with additional mental health problems stemming at least in part from social disadvantage. When those developmental disabilities, including Aspergers develop mental health issues associated with long term unemployment, social isolation and community disconnection, Accredited Mental Health Social Workers are uniquely skilled to address their psychosocial issues and improve their quality of life in ways not addressed by Psychiatrists or psychologists alone.

With a 90% unemployment rate among even those most able adults on the autism spectrum, most are on income support. As such, if they require mental health services, most will be unable to access these services if not covered by Medicare funding. From 2011 the Government is going to cut Medicare funding for Social Workers and Occupational Therapists under “Better Access to Mental Health Services” Program. 10,000 signatures is required to try and change this by December 2010. Please add yours.

Click here to get the PDF of the petition to print and sign.

Social Workers and Occupational Therapists Disappearing off the Medicare Radar

It’s not making the news at the moment, but the proposed scrapping of the Medicare rebate for access to social workers and occupational therapists is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. We have friends with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome who benefit from the support these people provide, support that helps these people get into jobs, to live independently or to understand how the world is working. As my own wife puts it:

As a person with autism, learning disabilities and mental health issues from a background of abuse and homelessness, a lot of my skills took years to acquire. I had had a lifetime of labels, Psych and Guidance, medicated by age 9, psychiatry since my teens. But it was a social worker who liased with my psychiatrist to get me – relatively illiterate, innumerate, itinerant and at risk – back into education. The psychiatrist took the credit but it was there I understood the very different jobs these people had in the area of mental health. The psychiatrist could medicate me, but the Social Worker had a more powerful medicine – practical plans and support to change, to save, a life.

When her first husband left after isolating her:

I had spent two years without practicing my self help skills. Agoraphobic, isolated, disoriented, I didn’t need a psychiatrist or medication. I needed practical hands on help in the home and the community to pattern me back into my life skills. That help came in the form of an Occupational Therapist. She helped me get back my strategies and the life skills these supported, helped me get my confidence back and helped me put supports in place for the things I needed help with. Within three months I was running my life as an independent adult, able to commute from home out into the community, even joining in community activities and looking after a cat.

Mental health often flies under the radar of journalists, but it is a significant health issue in Australia. Professor John Mendoza says:

Today, mental ill-health is the leading cause of death for all Australians under 45. More than car accidents. More than binge drinking. More than anything else. It is the leading cause of disability in Australia across all demographics. It affects more than 4 million Australians every year and is estimated to cost the Australian economy about $30 billion each year.

This decision isn’t yet set in stone, it is apparently due to be reviewed later this year but don’t wait for the election, please write and tell the current Health Minister why it is important to keep these services eligible for the Medicare rebate.

Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon,
1 Thomas Holmes Street
Maribyrnong Vic 3032,
Phone: 9317 7077.

Thank you.

Soliciting Australian Signatories to an Open Letter Against Software Patents to Minister Kim Carr

The Melbourne Free Software Interest Group (a group of Melbourne computer folks with an interest in software freedom) have put together an open letter to Senator the Hon Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, to request that software be excluded from patenting as part of the Australian governments review of patents in general.

We are currently collecting signatures to the letter and if you are in Australia and of a like mind we would really appreciate it if you would contribute your signature too! Just click on the link, read the letter and the form to sign it is at the bottom of the page. Please also pass this on to others you know who may be interested.

Geeks versus Lawyers, or, China versus the US

Interesting take on why China may well dominate technology in the near future at BusinessWeek:

In China, eight of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, including the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, have engineering degrees; one has a degree in geology.

Contrast that with the US:

Of the 15 U.S. cabinet members, six have law degrees. Only one cabinet member has a hard-science degree — Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997, has a doctorate in physics. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have law degrees.

Basically it comes down to political will and understanding on the part of the people with the power.

(Via the ever excellent InsideHPC)

Protect Your Family with the Kogan Portector!

If you’re worried about spam and scams coming through the Internet Portal (thanks to Stephen Conroy for pointing that threat out) then get yourself a Kogan Portector! Here’s their advert for it on YouTube..

Of course you must be sure to read the disclaimer..

DISCLAIMER: The Kogan “Portector” Internet Filter is not a real product. This product is in no way affiliated with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, The Australian Labor Party, or the Australian Government. Incorrect use may result in uncensored Internet content, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of thought, and protection of your civil liberties.

Phew, thanks Kogan for saving us!

Filter Senator Conroy (.org)

There’s a website now up called to persuade people in Victoria to vote below the line at the next federal election to sack Senator Conroy if he does not abandon his wrong-headed plans for mandatory ISP level censorship and waste valuable taxpayers funds (which could go to the police to fight paedophiles if the government really wanted to achieve something). I strongly commend this site to my fellow Victorian voters.

Joining the Australian Internet Blackout

Along with folks like the Samba project I’ve joined the Great Australian Internet Blackout, so the first time (and only the first time) you visit the site you’ll get the notice about the protest. Here’s why the proposed mandatory filtering is a bad idea from the Great Australian Internet Blackout website:

  • It won’t protect children: The filter isn’t a “cyber safety” measure to stop kids seeing inappropriate content such as R and X rated websites. It is not even designed to prevent the spread of illegal material where it is most often found (chat rooms, peer-to-peer file sharing).
  • We will all pay for this ineffective solution: Under this policy, ISPs will be forced to charge more for consumer and business broadband. Several hundred thousand dollars has already been spent to test the filter – without considering high-speed services such as the National Broadband Network!
  • A dangerous precedent: We stand to join a small club of countries which impose centralised Internet censorship such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The secret blacklist may be limited to “Refused Classification” content for now, but what might a future Australian Government choose to block?

If you’re using WordPress with a theme that supports widgets then participating is as easy as adding a text widget (or using one you already have) and add the single line of HTML to activate the blackout.

To paraphrase Kryten from Red Dwarf, it has just two minor flaws. One, it won’t work, and two, it won’t work. Now I realise that, technically speaking, that’s only one flaw but I thought it was such a big one it was worth mentioning twice.

How China Wrecked Copenhagen

A very interesting story courtesy of the Australian ABC from an insider at the Copenhagan COP15 climate change talks:

He says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other Western leaders were visibly upset when China started “removing all the numbers that mattered” in the final talks, including emissions cuts by developed countries of 80 per cent by 2050. ‘Why can’t we even mention our own targets?’ demanded a furious [German Premier] Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut?

Before anyone gets any thoughts that this is someone from a rich country trying to pass the buck, the person in question was Mark Lynas who was attached to the Maldives delegation, who have probably the most to loose from this. Mark has written more in an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, saying:

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen. China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was “the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility”, said Christian Aid. “Rich countries have bullied developing nations,” fumed Friends of the Earth International.

It was basically gutted at their behest:

China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered. A 2020 peaking year in global emissions, essential to restrain temperatures to 2C, was removed and replaced by woolly language suggesting that emissions should peak “as soon as possible”. The long-term target, of global 50% cuts by 2050, was also excised. No one else, perhaps with the exceptions of India and Saudi Arabia, wanted this to happen.

So there we go, it’s probably futile to try and get a deal in the near future, and longer than that (saving a miracle) probably means we’re stuffed.

The ensemble contained 17 model runs, and of these 13 showed a global average temperature rise of 4°C or higher by the 2080s.

My gut feeling that humans are too stupid to survive this one seems to be correct – I only wish that it wasn’t going to be at the expense of so many powerless people.

Charlie Stross on Mercy, Al Megrahi and America

A very eloquent blog post from Charlie Stross on the kerfuffle over the release of Al Megrahi, mercy and the US.

Even if Al Megrahi is a mass-murderer, the fact remains that he is dying. It is long-standing policy in Scotland to exercise the prerogative of mercy when possible; in general, if an imprisoned criminal is terminally ill, a request for release (for hospice care, basically) is usually granted unless they are believed to be a danger to the public.

That’s because the justice system isn’t solely about punishment. It’s about respect for the greater good of society, which is better served by rehabilitation and reconcilliation than by revenge. We do not make ourselves better people by exercising a gruesome revenge on the bodies of our vanquished foes.

Well worth reading!

(Via Jim)

Final report for “Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data” released

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry into access to the data that it generates, and they’ve finally tabled their report (PDF). I’ve only had a chance for a quick scan of it so far but its three main recommendations are as follows.

Firstly – this info should be made available and it should be cheap (ideally free!):

The Committee has proposed three key recommendations for access to and re-use of Government information. First, the Committee recommends that the Victorian Government develop an Information Management Framework for the purpose of facilitating access to and re-use of Victorian Government information by government, citizens and businesses. The default position of the framework should be that all PSI produced by Victorian Government departments from now on be made available at no or marginal cost.

Secondly – they should use Creative Commons licensing wherever possible!

The second key recommendation of the Committee is that the Victorian Government make use of the Creative Commons licensing model for the release of PSI. The Committee was told Creative Commons licences can be appropriately used for up to 85 per cent of government information and data, providing a simple to understand and widely used system for the re-use of PSI. Remaining Victorian Government PSI should either not be released, or released under licences tailored specifically for restricted materials.

Thirdly – and least excitingly – there should be a portal for this info..

The Committee’s third key recommendation is that the Victorian Government establish an on-line directory, where the public can search for and obtain information about PSI held by the Victorian Government. Depending on the access conditions Government has attached to specific PSI, people will be able to download information and data directly, or make contact with people in the Victorian Government to discuss access conditions.

They also have a recommendation and finding relating to state government purchasing of software related to open source:

The Committee also considers the use of open source software (OSS) within and by the Victorian Government. One of the Committee’s recommendations is that the Government ensure tendering for software is neither licence specific nor has proprietary software-specific requirements, and that it meet the given objectives of Government.

Finding 23: There is sufficient evidence of cost-competitiveness between open source software and proprietary software for government to carefully consider both options during software procurement and development.

They also consider the licensing of software developed by the government:

As noted in section below, current Victorian Government policy is to allocate IP rights in software produced for it to the software developer, with certain restrictions to ensure the Government’s interests are protected. This means that there is nothing to restrict people who develop software for the government from subsequently releasing it as OSS.

Unfortunately it looks like MS Word stuffed up their references and headings for them – what irony! There is no section in the PDF, it’s probably referring to section 10.3.3, which is followed by section 10.3.4 which in turn is followed by – er ?

Even more interesting is when they talk about file formats:

Recommendation 42: That the Victorian Government require, as part of its whole-of-government ICT Procurement Policy, that software procured by the Government be capable of saving files in open standard formats, and that wherever possible, the software be configured to save in open standard formats by default.

There’s heaps more there, but I’ve run out of time to read it tonight! 🙂

(Found via OpenAustralia on Twitter)