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My response to a letter from my local MP supporting Home Instead Senior Care
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Path to this
Letter to local Member of Parliament
Read my complaint to FIRB
Read the MP's letter to me about this (pdf file)
13 June, 2006
The Honourable Michael Johnson MP
Federal Member for Ryan
PO Box 704
Dear Mr Johnson,
Thank you for your letter dated 5 June 2006. I greatly appreciate that you took the trouble to read my letter to the FIRB, to reply and to add a personal note.
Your letter is particularly interesting to me as it confirms the primacy of process and form, and the low priority given to important real life considerations of cultural back ground, probity, trustworthiness and integrity in current political thinking. I accept the invitation in your last paragraph to draw these and related issues to your attention and ask for your assistance in addressing them.
This limited perspective is particularly worrying in politics. Many of us are concerned about these issues. The matters raised by the allegations surrounding the people overboard incident, the selective massaging of intelligence in Iraq, and the complicity/blindness of the political establishment to the AWB scandal all point to unrecognised problems in this area. We are concerned by this approach in other contexts, including Australias international relationships, and of course in health and aged care.
Your comments echo the assertions to universal validity which underpin current economic ideology and allow it to claim legitimacy. Your comments and the majority of those assertions are either contestable, incorrect or more usually relevant within some but not all contexts of our lives. Their generalisation as valid truths in other contexts flies in the face of evidence and is not logical. We have moved from the narrowness of the extreme left only to be confronted by that of the right.
In a television interview a few weeks ago the author Bryce Courtney compared what was happening in Australia today to the early years of apartheid in South Africa. I too was in South Africa at this time and can confirm the manner in which sincere true believers in apartheid, and in the theory which gave it legitimacy, embraced popular misconceptions, half truths and truths within limited contexts, then asserted them as universal truths with universal applicability. Those who criticised were discredited and isolated. By doing so true believers were able to make the unsupportable and the illogical not only legitimate but essential - and carry the entire country with them.
This I suspect is the story of almost all the unfortunate ideologies of the 20th century. One thinker writing in the Australian on 1st January 2000 aptly and prophetically described this weakness for the simple and comfortable (but inadequate) frames of understanding which characterise ideology as the debris of the 20th century littering the 21st.
This letter is not to challenge your sincerity in your political beliefs, nor is it a personal criticism. It is to urge you and your colleagues to stand back and examine the different contexts of our lives and the evidence before you. It is to urge you and your colleagues to resist the temptation to uncritically apply universal beliefs, condemn alternative perspectives and attack the messengers. Please carefully consider the context of each situation, the views of those with the most experience, the logic and the evidence. This is particularly important in the welfare, health and aged care sectors.
Your government should no longer follow the USA by denying that the well documented recurrent failures in Australias aged care sector are in large part a consequence of ideological government policies.
There are multiple lessons from the US health and aged care experience - which is why your assertion is faulty and why the US situation and similar market culture there are so important for us to understand and confront.
The most important lesson from the USA is the failure to recognise and acknowledge that the fundamental flaw in health and aged care has been the uncritical application of an economic/market theory to a sector where it is not valid. As a consequence each scandal has been met by attempts to make the system more closely conform to ideological thinking. This has simply compounded the problems by increasing the pressure towards dysfunction. A similar blindness is reflected in your comments. Our Graeme Samuel is guilty of a similar logical failure in his prescription for health care.
Another important lesson from these sectors in the USA is the failure of accreditation, oversight, prosecution and punishment in spite of multiple attempts to reinvigorate them. Almost all exposures and prosecutions have been by whistleblowers using the Qui Tam laws (which Australia does not have).
It is not logical to drive "reform" in a vulnerable sector by exerting strong pressures towards dysfunction and exploitation of the vulnerable. We should not then expect regulation, oversight and punishment to work as an effective deterrent. These have limits. They are useful in restraining occasional errant behaviour in a context where the motivations within the particular subculture are congruent with desired outcomes and truly supportive of the regulations. An examination of the business reports in our press shows that this situation does not exist in corporate health and aged care.
I have published a paper (pdf file) in which I have addressed some of these issues within the health and aged care context. I attach a copy for your information.
J Michael Wynne
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This page created Sept 2006 by Michael Wynne