House debates

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Constituency Statements

Swan Electorate: Aged Care

4:19 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

On 4 October the shadow minister for ageing and mental health, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, visited my electorate of Swan to meet with the aged-care sector and discuss pressures on the aged-care industry. It was a productive meeting, and I thank the shadow minister for making the trip over to Western Australia to meet with my constituents and providers. Many of the participants in the forum were not from management but actual front-line staff who work each day on the coalface and feel the effects of poor government management.

According to the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the costs of providing aged care are predicted to double in the next 40 years. Australians are living longer and creating an ageing population which is, in my view, the biggest social issue facing Australia and of key importance to this and future governments. To give an insight into the scope of this challenge, it is over-85-year-olds who are the main users of the aged-care services, and these will increase from 400,000, or 1.7 per cent of the total population, in 2007 to 1.6 million, or 5.6 per cent, by 2047. It is clear that we need to provide the most advantageous environment possible to the providers if they are to thrive and meet the future challenges of providing services to our communities. Not only is the ageing population resulting in potentially unsustainable increased costs as we age, but we have more complex health conditions and changing disease patterns, resulting in increasing and changed aged-care needs. I have particular interest in this area—as you do, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas; you are the chair and I am the deputy chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, and we have both spoken many times since entering this parliament on the challenges that the community faces in these areas.

If there is one thing that I took from the meeting, it was the view that, whilst plenty of noise has been made in Canberra, what actually matters to those running these organisations and those on the coalface is that we formulate policies that can actually be delivered. Until there is a proper structural reform of the aged-care sector, the care and wellbeing of senior Australians is and will continue to be at risk. Despite promises for reform, five years on there is very little evidence of real change on the ground. Labor has failed to deliver on promises and refuses to make the hard decisions. As is common with this government, it undertook a litany of reports and reviews but very little action has been achieved. The coalition has been calling on the government for much-needed reform for some time, and at the last election we set out our framework for real reform through the first ever four-year aged-care provider agreement with the sector, including consideration of the Productivity Commission report. In closing, the industry and clients that I have met all want 100 per cent of the Productivity Commission report implemented, not just the five per cent the Labor government is introducing.


Roger Helbig
Posted on 1 Nov 2012 6:02 pm

Depleted Uranium kinetic energy penetrators (anti-tank bullets) were developed in the 1970's to be able to stop the expected onslaught of thousands of modern Soviet Bloc tanks at the beginning of WW-III. We and especially Europe, which would have been destroyed far worse than in WW-II, were spared that cataclysm and the DU penetrators were used in the 1991 Gulf War to destroy a number of Saddam Hussein's tanks at extreme range. They never were used in combat before that because there never was a battle between US/UK tanks and an enemy adversary. Saddam did not like the fact that his tanks could be destroyed by the DU "silver bullet" before they came within range to be able to shoot back. He also did not like the UN Sanctions that ended the Gulf War. He decided to kill two birds with one stone by parading all the children with birth defects and cancers before the cameras of friends who came to Iraq between about 1992 and 2003. This is happening again in Fallujah and Basra now that the US has left Iraq. That makes this the longest propaganda campaign in history, but there never was any real fact to it and the Honorable Member has been led to believe that there is. I wish that he would consult with medical professionals who do not have any axe to grind, no interest in opposing or supporting the use of DU penetrator projectiles. I also wish that the Honorable Member would ask the Army if they ever expect to see even the US in another land war where there is a major confrontation between armored forces. I believe that he will find that this is unlikely except perhaps in the event of a meltdown of North Korea that results in a spasmodic military attack across the 38th Parallel. In the mid-70's, the DU penetrator was chosen, developed and fielded because all of the other potential armor piercing rounds did not do the job. Uranium has an unusal metallurgical property that causes it to self-sharpen and maintain a point when it hits armor plate. All of the other materials that were tested were blunted and mushroomed and were thus stopped before penetrating the armor plate target. That is why DU penetrators came to be. DU is naturally occuring Uranium-238 in highly concentrated metallic form alloyed with Titanium. It is not some manmade material, except for the fact that no metal that readily oxidizes is normally found in pure metal form in nature. U-238 has a 4.5 billion year half life because it has negligible radioactivity and half of that present at the formation of the Earth is still present. Really nasty radioactive materials like Polonium-210, used to kill a former KGB agent in London, have much shorter half-lives. That of Polonium-210 is 138 days - and it is extremely toxic . Every person reading this has DU (U-238) in their body and ingests, inhales and drinks in a fraction of a microgram every single day of their life. Given that every single ancestor has also done all of this, if DU (U-238) were as bad as the Honorable Member and I suspect the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) that pushes the recurrent UN resolution to further its own aims of continuing in existence, gaining members and gathering contributions, claims, why is it that there is still a human race? Would we not all be horrid looking mutants by now?

Roger Helbig
Posted on 1 Nov 2012 6:41 pm

Australian forces do not need DU. There is no likelihood that any invader will ever land tanks on Australian soil. I do not believe that Australia possesses heavy tanks such as the UK's Challenger or the US's M1 Abrams. Both of those tanks are not only capable of firing a DU penetrator round and did so in the 1991 Gulf War and in Iraq in 2003, but also capable of firing high exposive anti-tank rounds that are also very effective at blowing large holes in walls and barricades. Those explosive rounds were used by US Marine tanks in Fallujah, Iraq. There never was a tank battle in Fallujah in 2003 and there were no enemy (Sunni insurgent/Al Quaeda/Foreign figher) tanks in either of the two hard fought battles of 2004. That, however has not stopped the current propandists from blaming the cause of any child with a birth defect or cancer that can be paraded before a camera (your own SBS did this and then gave award for the show despite its being based on false pretenses) on depleted uranium. Donna Mulhearn has bought into that because she was a Saddam supporter as a "human shield" and she chooses to believe those who propagandize to those who provide the underlying scientific facts. Sadly, Ms Mulhearn appears to be a constituent of the Honorable Member and to have influenced him by plying him with the false information that she has been provided by Iraqis who know that photos and videos of children with birth defects and cancers grab the heart strings and people will easily believe that DU, being radioactive and a heavy metal, has to be the cause. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not agree and neither does the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)Post Conflict Branch or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The campaigners conveniently ignore this dissenting scientific research. They prefer research posted in on-line journals that do not do careful peer review or postings on blogs or videos on Al Jazeera or even SBS (which was taken in, but since it is an award winning broadcast, are very reluctant to do any real homework and show themselves to have bought into propaganda). What they ignore, though, is extensive field and laboratory research by international scientific teams who have gone to actual areas where DU was used. They also postpone honest research into the causes of birth defects and cancers in Iraq. That certainly does no one any good. They also make sure that legislators like the Honorable Member do not receive any other information. The ICBUW even used a photo of Japanese campaigners dressed in garbage bags, surgical masks and shower caps with the caption, "The Human Cost of Uranium Weapons" to advertise a photo exhibit to ensnare the Belgian Parliament and probably the decision makers in a number of the various UN countries that they have lobbied. There is one major thing wrong with this photo. It claims to show people who are in a hazardous radiological and chemical environment and the ersatz protective gear that they are wearing is no protection at all. Anyone who actually was in a hazardous environment who was wearing garbage bags, surgical masks and shower caps would be risking sickness or death. Now, we know that no one would risk the lives of campaigners, so someone knows that the photo is fake and Doug Weir of the ICBUW knows that the photo is fake yet refuses to admit it. Given that they use one faked photo, what else do they not tell the truth about? I invite every reader to ask the ICBUW and the Honorable Member about what they claim to be true and compare it with scientific fact. You will then wonder what all this fuss about depleted uranium is all about.

Roger Helbig
Posted on 1 Nov 2012 8:17 pm

The agreement between Australia and the United States to not use uranium mined in Australia to make depleted uranium munitions is meaningless. The United States Department of Energy currently has hundreds of thousands of tons of DUF6 that it has to dispose of (see ). That is because DUF6 is potentially very hazardous, not because of the DU, but because of the F6. The Flouride ions combine with water vapor to form hydrofluoric acid, a highly corrosive fluid and contact poison that can dissolve glass. DUF6 is stored in aging cylinders and can occur in both solid and gaseous state depending on temperature within a somewhat narrow range and as a result, the US Department of Energy has embarked on a contracted five year conversion program to convert DUF6 to DU oxide.

Roger Helbig
Posted on 1 Nov 2012 11:12 pm

I was mistaken about my assumption that the Royal Australian Army's Armoured Corps did not possess Main Battle Tanks. It does in fact possess the American manufactured M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. I do not know if they are kept in readiness for overseas deployment from Australia. I have also asked the Royal Australian Army if these Abrams tanks possess the "heavy armor" with depleted uranium plates welded inside of conventional steel armour plate. I apologize for that misassumption. For the record, the impenetrability of "heavy armor" saved a number of tank crew member's lives in the Gulf War and I would expect that the Honorable Member would prefer live Royal Australian Army Armoured Corps tank crew members to birth defects and childhood cancers that have been deliberately mispresented by master manipulators as being due to depleted uranium.