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Friday September 30, 2005

First published 1831 No. 52,430

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· Masters & Gould: how to win the decider · Footy card poster · Tiger in their tank: the team that Sheens built SPORT

Swans tribute poster


Medical bills eating away at hip pocket


Mark Metherell Political Correspondent

Dye of the Tigers ­ for devoted fans only

a year spent on health Drugs, dentists drive cost surge


Share of total non-government funds (%)

Individuals (out-of-pocket expenses)

70 60 50 40 Health insurance funds 30 20 10 Other non-government 0

Personal health bills have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, with Australians paying an average of $796 a year on medication and treatment not covered by the Federal Government or health funds. The amount spent on drugs, dentists and medical gadgetry has driven a 6.2 per cent annual rise in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare today. Australians have personally shouldered a bigger share of overall health spending in the past decade, in contrast to most other Western countries including the United States, the report says. While consumer costs have risen steadily, the share of nongovernment spending borne by health funds has dropped by a third since 1994, as more and more insurance holders seek treatment where there are significant out-of-pocket costs, such as trips to the dentist. An exception is the out-ofpocket costs of private hospital care, which fell by nearly 15 per cent over five years. This may be because of the introduction of nogap payment schemes. The latest figures do not take into account this year's 20 per cent rise in prescription drug copayments, which have increased personal costs. However, that rise will be countered to some extent by the lift in the bulk billing rate for doctors' services, which cuts bills. A spokeswoman for the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, said the figures did not reflect the safety net introduced by the Government to defray high medical bills. This is expected to cost the tax-



`Very few people believe the 30 per cent health insurance rebate is a wise use of government funds.'

GORDON RENOUF Australian Consumers Association payer more than $1 billion over four years. Mr Abbott said the Government was ``always concerned to ensure that medical costs are judiciously restrained. All government programs have rigorous cost-effective tests. Any increase in Federal Government spending is more than justified by the community benefit.'' However, the Australian Consumers Association said the latest figures underlined the need to make health care affordable for people on low incomes. The rising costs showed that ``the health system is not in very good shape for the consumer'', said the association's spokesman, Gordon Renouf. ``Some more fundamental reform of the health system is needed. We believe most Aust-

ralians support some form of universal cover with measures that do not encourage excessive use of the health system by some but do not make treatments . . . accessible to all.'' Mr Renouf said: ``Very few people believe the 30 per cent health insurance rebate is a wise use of government funds. It has not done anything for public hospital waiting lists.'' He said the figures showed that individuals, not the Government or health funds, bore the risk of health costs, adding that more analysis of effective spending of health funds was needed. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's report, which gives the latest available statistics up to 2004, shows that government and private spending on health in the 2003-04 financial year totalled $78.4 billion and absorbed 9.7 per cent of the total economy, continuing a steady rise from 8.3 per cent a decade ago. The figures also show that government spending has increased, in real terms, by an average of 5.6 per cent a year in the decade to 2004, slightly more than the 5.4 per cent rise forked out by consumers on personal health. However, because of statistical differences, an international comparison of out-of-pocket spending shows the percentage of total health spending borne by Australians rose from 17 per cent in 1993 to 20.3 per cent in 2003. A spokesman for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Ken Tallis, said that in many other countries public and personal spending on health were continuing to rise. Countries that enjoyed increased wealth spent a higher proportion of their incomes on health services.

1993/94 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04

Home game ... Justin Hill and the home he and his brother turned into a West Tigers shrine in the lead up to Sunday's grand final. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Jordan Baker

From Balmain to Campbelltown, Wests Tigers fans are throwing themselves behind their team. Streets are decked with flags and banners and one bakery is even selling black and gold tarts. Yet few could surpass brothers Justin and Daniel Hill, who have painted their 12-month-old home gold and black and created a mini

football field, complete with posts, on the front lawn. ``It's to scale ­ it's a proper football field,'' said Justin. ``We have played footy on it, but there was no record kept of points.'' The brothers, aged 23 and 26, have also planted a flag on the roof and hung Magpie and Balmain jerseys in the windows. It took them eight hours, with the help of 13 others.

Justin admitted his parents were initially worried. ``Now our parents think it looks great. The neighbours are pretty happy. If [the Tigers] win, we will keep it for a couple of weeks.'' With their Glen Alpine home now a magnet for well-wishers, the brothers plan to capitalise on their fame with a pre-match barbecue for 150 people tomorrow night.

Local councils are also getting in on the act. Leichhardt Council has decked Leichhardt and Balmain town halls in the team colours and plans to show the game at Leichhardt Oval. Campbelltown Council has also decorated its civic buildings and encouraged staff to wear black, gold and white tomorrow. One receptionist, Helene Buckman, is answering calls

with: ``Campbelltown City Council, go the Wests Tigers, how can I help you?'' There is even a prize for the house or business sporting the most innovative Tigers decoration. Unfortunately, for the Hill brothers, the contest is open only to those in the Campbelltown and Port Jackson electorates.

Editorial ­ Page 12

Million-dollar refugee ships lying half empty

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles

They are the biggest, most expensive refugee boats, hired by the US Government to house the victims of Hurricane Katrina at a cost of a quarter of a billion dollars. But the three cruise liners are lying more than half empty and critics say they are evidence of the Government's mismanagement of the disaster and lack of prepar-

ation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pay $US236 million ($310 million) to hire the three ships for six months. However, Senate critics say it would have cost half that much to send the hurricane survivors on a Caribbean cruise. The ships have a capacity of 7116 beds, at a cost of $US1275 a person a week. The cost of a Caribbean cruise from Texas is $US559 a week. ``When the Fed-

eral Government would actually save millions of dollars by . . . sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight,'' said Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama. However, the head of contracts at Sealift Command, which is part of the agency, defended the deal. ``They were the market,'' said Captain Joe Manna. ``Under the circumstances, I'd say we're

getting a pretty good value.'' The deal attracted further criticism when it emerged that the ships' Miami-based owner, Carnival, is registered in Panama and is exempt from most US taxes. The firm had also sought assurances from the agency that the relief contract would be tax-exempt.

The Guardian, Agence France-Presse

Hurricane waste ­ Page 9

Outcry ... one of the cruise ships for Katrina survivors. Photo: AFP


Details ­ Page 18

Sydney city fine and sunny 11°-23° Tomorrow fine 13°-25° Liverpool fine and sunny 7°-24° Tomorrow sunny 9°-27° Penrith fine and sunny 5°-24° Tomorrow sunny 11°-27° Newcastle mostly sunny 8°-23° Tomorrow cloudy 9°-25° Wollongong sunny periods 9°-21° Tomorrow cloudy 11°-24°

ISSN 0312-6315

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Kelly Burke


Save the harbour

Radical plans for the future of Sydney Harbour are now law, with the Government saying they will protect the harbour for all the city's residents. Page 3

Home insurance to beat price slide

Darren Goodsir Urban Affairs Editor

9 770312 631056

The most practical HSC subjects may be less than useful in the real world. A study has found students who take clerical and service-industry courses are more likely to end up jobless. The future unemployed are concentrated in a cluster of such subjects, the study found. Almost half those who studied subjects such as hospitality, retail operations and tourism failed to take up any further study or training after they left school. The national research, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research, exam-

ined the course choices made by 14,000 year 12 students in 1998 and in 2001. It found inappropriate subject selection led to a higher chance of unemployment in the long term. Those most likely to go on to further study and secure employment included some advanced mathematics and physical sciences subjects in year 12. About half of the 41 per cent of students who studied vocational clerical and services subjects and undertook no post-school study or training were underemployed or unemployed a year later. The remaining half were concentrated in low-paid jobs.

The council's deputy chief executive officer, John Ainley, said the report did not suggest some courses led students on a path to nowhere. But there could be a case for schools focusing on fewer vocational subjects. The president of the NSW Board of Studies, Professor Gordon Stanley, said some students might not have done the HSC at all had they not had access to a vocational education and training (VET) course. ``All [VET students] would have achieved some workplace competencies . . . so it's not as if it's wasted time.''

Bread break-off

Burns Philp will sell its low-growth breadmaking and Meadow Lea assets. The company's shares hit an eight-year high yesterday of $1.14 before closing 4.5 cents higher at $1.12. Page 21

Nelson backs plan ­ Page 5

Scared about buying a home in Sydney because of plummeting house prices? Worry no longer. Home buyers can now buy an insurance policy that will cover them for up to $50,000 if they are forced to sell their property within five years of buying it. But there are strings attached. The policy, which was launched yesterday, only applies when a sale is caused by accidental death, disability, redundancy, divorce, or job relocation and will be available only from the property's developers.

It costs $1265 all up, plus a $165 annual administration fee. For slightly less protection, a $660 one-off premium will insure against a $30,000 loss. Wayne Gersbach, executive director of the Housing Industry Association, said the insurance would be offered by developers keen to placate the worries of would-be buyers. He said it was a pity such insurance had not been ``invented 12 months ago'', when the first signs of the city's property slump started to emerge, especially at the top end of the market. ``It is great to see the current competitive nature of the in-

surance industry delivering novel solutions to issues in the industry. While home building activity is off from its peak of 18 months ago, there is no oversupply as some commentators were predicting. So the benefits provided by the opportunity to insure against a decline in the value of your property should flow through very quickly to new construction.'' The insurance, which applies to investment as well as residential properties and takes into account incidental costs, such as stamp duty and agent transaction fees, has been underwritten by ACE Insurance.

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Things you should know: 1. For standard 1-Port modem Self-Install Kit (Cable or ADSL) or standard Cable Professional Install Kit. Rebates for customers purchasing an ADSL Kit in-store will appear on first or second bill. $129 credit available for other install options. $0 install and $129 credit offers exclude ADSL Professional Installation and BYO modem. Customers must be directly billed by Telstra for access, local and long distance calls and connect to a new BigPond Broadband service under "$100 Cash Back" offer. 2. ADSL and Cable not available in all areas. $100 (incl GST) available to customers who successfully apply for a new plan with eligible install options and supply special offer code 2733, between 7/9/05 and 3/11/05 (unless withdrawn earlier). Excludes ADSL Professional Installation and BYO modem. Can't be used with any other BigPond special offer unless otherwise stated. Min cost on ADSL $29.95 200MB 256/64 plan with 1-Port ADSL Self-Install Kit without $0 installation is $847.80 and with $0 installation and a HomeLine Plus service is $1437.60, plus additional usage at 15c/MB. Early termination charges may apply. $125 to convert from ISDN. Non-transferable cheque in the name of account holder. Telstra can refuse to pay if it reasonably considers a customer is not bona fide. ® Registered trade mark of Telstra Corporation Limited ABN 33 051 775 556. BWM/TEL4534/SMH/AGE/7x11

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