AMA welcomes Abbott’s policy on health

AMA (NSW) president Michael Steiner said there were many positive aspects to the package announced by Opposition leader Tony Abbott on Thursday.

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“The announcements today show the coalition is making a serious attempt to respond to the concerns that have been expressed by the AMA,” he told reporters.

He did not rule out the possibility for further announcements and hopes to see an e-health system in the next term of government and cooperative policies on mental health.

“I would have liked to have seen a bipartisan approach on mental health,” Dr Steiner said.

Health ‘chronically under-serviced’

“This is a sector where we really can’t afford political conflict. That section of our health sector is chronically under-serviced.”

Mr Abbott’s key $3.1 billion promise will see 2800 new public hospital beds delivered over four years, in line with the AMA’s recommendations.

Dr Steiner commended Mr Abbott’s announcement to provide $833 million to support GPs and boost Medicare and the funding of the 2800 new hospital beds.

“It’s very important the coalition, if it comes to government, is very proactive in making those beds appear and not just fund ones that the states might decide to open,” Dr Steiner said.

Dr Steiner said he thinks health will now be at the forefront of the campaign but cannot choose a clear winner from the two parties.

“To be honest, there are some aspects of the health agenda where the government seems to have put more thought and resources and more effort into solving problems and there are others where the Coalition is ahead,” he said.

Dancing with dogs at the ‘Ekka’

Karen Moore, who was a competitive ballroom dancer for 17 years, has given up conventional dance sport for a quirkier pursuit.

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And she and her four-year-old Belgian Malinois make a brilliant team.

They’re among the teams competing in the Dances with Dogs competition at the Royal Queensland Show, better known as the Ekka, in Brisbane.

The event provides handlers and their dogs with an opportunity to demonstrate a skilful, choreographed routine, performed to music.

Ms Moore, from the Gold Coast, started working with Zorba when the dog was eight weeks old.

“She’s a very high drive dog so it takes a lot of work to keep her calm and focussed before a performance,” Ms Moore said.

“We work together (on the choreography). She came up with a paw cross when I tipped my hat.”

Their team work and skill showed during the first day of competition on Friday with Zorba leaping on cue, weaving in and out of Ms Moore’s legs and even doing what resembled boot scooting moves.

The contests continue on Tuesday and Friday (August 13).

Ms Moore was once a professional ballroom dancer who gave it up to dance with her dogs.

“I’ve been a ballroom dancer for 17 years and I retired to dance with my dogs, which is much more satisfying,” she said.

This is the second year the Ekka has hosted the contest which, according to event co-ordinator Barbara Murfet, is a big hit with the crowd.

“It’s a very popular sport but it takes a lot of dedication to get the dog trained to that level of obedience,” Ms Murfet said.

Dances with Dogs is a new canine sport that was only recognised as an official sport in Australia last year.

The Ekka runs to August 14.

Pakistan appeal for help

The number covered just Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab as figures from southern Sindh province had not yet come in, National Disaster Management Authority chief Nadeem Ahmad told AFP in Islamabad.

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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed for immediate international help to cope with the disaster as authorities evacuated half a million people from risk areas in the south.

“I would ask international community to support and help Pakistan alleviate sufferings of flood-affected people,” Gilani said in a televised address to the nation.

“Pakistan has been hit by worst floods of its history,” he said.

“The loss of human lives and infrastructure has been colossal and real assessment of damages can only be done when water recedes.”

The nearly two-week-old disaster across the largely impoverished country hard hit by Taliban-linked violence washed away entire villages and killed at least 1600, according to UN estimates.

“We are passing through very critical times but courageous nations face such difficulties with strong will and determination,” Gilani said, adding that floods were engulfing new areas even as he spoke.

Authorities in densely populated Sindh were busy evacuating villagers, warning that major floods in the next 48 hours threatened hundreds of communities in the fertile basin along the swollen Indus river.

“It is a real crisis all over the country. It is unprecedented floods in our history,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP, adding that the country did not have the resources to cope with such a disaster.

Bedraggled women, children and elderly men in shabby clothes were deposited on the banks by rescue boats criss-crossing a giant lake dotted by tree tops in the village of Durrani Mehar in northern Sindh.

The meteorological office issued a red alert overnight, warning of an “imminent” and “extreme” flood threat to Sindh, especially along the Indus, as flooding spread to Indian-held Kashmir, where more than 110 people have now died.

Torrential rains were also forecast in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the disaster management authority warned people who have returned to partially damaged homes or those living along rivers to be careful.

The head of the flood relief operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Major General Ghayoor Mehmood, told reporters in Peshawar that the floods killed about 1400 people in the province, with 213 still missing.

“The scale of the needs is absolutely daunting,” said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

More than 252,000 homes are thought to have been damaged or destroyed across Pakistan, and 558,000 hectares of crop land flooded, and it could take weeks before electricity is fully restored.

“Our cattle died and the cotton crop destroyed,” said Mohammad Bakhsh, 50, a resident of Qasim Ghot village.

“I’ve got calls on my mobile saying 20 to 25 children from our family are stranded in the village and are holding onto tree branches.

“We are begging the authorities to rescue them. Two of my children have drowned and we don’t know where they are,” Bakhsh said.

The flooding has threatened electricity generation plants, forcing units to shut down in a country already suffering a crippling energy crisis.

Survivors have lashed out at authorities for failing to come to their rescue and provide better relief, piling pressure on a cash-strapped administration straining to contain Taliban violence and an economic crisis.

“We have nothing. I have no food and water to give my children. We desperately need help,” Janat Bibi, a 30-year-old mother of eight, told AFP. Her husband Khadim Mirani was missing in the flood.

Particular scorn has been heaped on the unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari for pressing ahead with a visit to Europe at the height of the disaster.

Islamic charities, some with suspected links to extremist militants, have been stepping into the breach on the ground, as international relief efforts are mobilised, but aid workers are struggling to reach all those affected.

British charities grouped to launch an urgent appeal on TV and radio through the Disasters Emergency Committee, and France said it would give $US395,000 ($A431,270) to three organisations working to provide relief for the victims.

The United States has pledged a total of $US35 million ($A38.21 million) in aid, with military helicopter relief missions travelling into the worst-hit regions.

Day 20: Rudd enters stage left

The healing continued within the ALP after Mr Rudd moved to close the door on the past during an interview on Wednesday night, his first since he was dumped as Labor leader.

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In his first public appearance since gall bladder surgery last week, Mr Rudd reiterated the future of the nation was more important than the manner in which he lost the leadership six weeks ago to Julia Gillard.

“The truth is this has been a very difficult time for our family, and it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“But it is equally true that there are much bigger things at stake at present than my future, and that is our country’s future.”

His intervention might be the injection Labor needs to reinvigorate its campaign, which was on the skids last week and has been trying to find its feet after unleashing the “real” Julia Gillard on Monday.

Labor is desperate to make up ground in Queensland, Mr Rudd’s home state, where polling reportedly suggests it could lose up to 10 seats.

Mr Rudd wasn’t the only uneasy bedfellow helping the federal Labor cause.

Despite an at times tricky relationship between the party’s state and federal arms, Labor premiers moved en masse to attack a $3.1 billion health plan unveiled by Mr Abbott.

Coalition talks health

The coalition is trying to trump Labor, traditionally seen as having the advantage on health.

Before he was dumped as leader, Mr Rudd was proposing to pump more than $7 billion into health and hospitals under a reform plan negotiated with all states and territories bar Western Australia.

A key plank of the coalition policy – described as “Rudd-lite” by one expert – is an extra 2800 hospital beds, though 800 have already been allocated to its mental health proposal.

The big obstacle, however, could be the financially strapped states, all run by Labor governments except Western Australia.

Mr Abbott won’t deliver the cash for them to fund the beds upfront.

“If they want to get the money, they’ll have to produce the beds,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio.

“I think that the only way to get performance out of the states is to say the money won’t come until after they’ve performed.”

Rann slams Abbott

South Australian Premier Mike Rann predicted a coalition government would mean a return of the blame game between the commonwealth and states.

“He’s only going to fund the beds after they’ve been opened,” Mr Rann told AAP.

“So where the hell does he think the money will come from to keep his promise?”

Mr Abbott also confirmed he would expand his policy on local hospital boards to the entire country. Previously, the policy was targeted at NSW and Queensland.

Trying to save his legacy reform on health, as well as what he achieved for the economy, climate change and national broadband, were among the reasons Mr Rudd stepped up to speak out against an Abbott government.

“These are the reasons I oppose the election of Mr Abbott’s government, and these are the policy reasons therefore I support the re-election of this federal Labor government, under Prime Minister Gillard,” Mr Rudd said.

The conciliatory act was embraced by the prime minister, who praised Mr Rudd as a man of “enormous capabilities”.

Mr Rudd will now accept a request from Ms Gillard to join Labor’s national campaign.

The pair will come together on Saturday for the first time since Ms Gillard seized the leadership in a caucus showdown on June 24.

Their meeting is sure to steal some of the oxygen from the Liberal campaign launch on Sunday.

Coalition ramps up economic credentials

The coalition was ramping up its economic credentials after Mr Abbott stumbled earlier in the week, unable to state when the budget would be brought back to surplus under his leadership.

He was back on message on Wednesday, with a firm commitment that the surplus would be restored by 2012-13.

Mr Abbott restated a pledge that the coalition would deliver a “bigger surplus” than Labor but would not say by how much.

But Mr Abbott isn’t the only one to be caught off guard.

Treasurer Wayne Swan came up blank, too, when asked on Melbourne radio how much interest was being paid on government debt each week.

Moscow chokes as fires continue

Russia is struggling to battle wildfires which have claimed 52 lives and choked Moscow, as the US, Germany and France asked citizens avoid travel to the capital and other stricken areas.

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Moscow moved to protect military and nuclear sites from the onslaught of its worst ever blazes in modern history and launched an appeal for volunteers to help stem the relentless march.

The emergency situations ministry is seeking the help “of all people who can pitch in”, a spokesman told AFP.

The defence ministry ordered the evacuation of missiles from a depot outside the smothered capital as authorities warned of the risk of fires reactivating contamination in an area hit by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Germany closed its embassy until further notice and advised citizens against “non-essential” travel to the affected regions while the US State Department asked nationals to seriously review travel plans.

“Forest fires and extreme high temperatures in the Moscow region and surrounding areas of central Russia have produced hazardous levels of air pollution and caused numerous flight delays and cancellations in Moscow,” the department said in a warning set to expire September 5.

“The hazardous air quality means that persons with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. Everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors,” it added.

The French foreign ministry also asked citizens to avoid travel to nine affected regions and announced it was sending experts to determine “the most adequate aid” it could offer.

Moscow’s iconic landmarks such as the spires of the Kremlin towers or the onion domes of Orthodox churches were largely invisible from a distance on Friday as a heavy smog hung over the city after the worst heatwave in decades broke out in July.

“I woke up this morning, looked out of the window and saw a monstrous situation,” declared President Dmitry Medvedev. “We all want this heatwave to pass but this is not in our hands, it is decided above.”

He called on Moscovites to show patience, although he acknowledged “we’re suffocating, you can’t breathe”.

The emergencies ministry said the total area ablaze was down slightly at 179,600 hectares (444,000 acres) and for the first time it was putting out more fires than were appearing.

The fires have claimed the lives of 52 people, the ministry of health said in an updated toll.

Russia’s football federation meanwhile moved a friendly match with Bulgaria from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, fearing for the health of the players.

NASA images have shown the fires are easily visible from space and the US space agency said the smoke had at times reached 12 kilometres (six miles) into the stratosphere.

A particular worry for the Russian authorities has been fires around the city of Sarov in central Russia which houses the country’s main nuclear research centre. It is still closed to foreigners, as in Soviet times.

The Russian nuclear agency has said that all radioactive and explosive materials have been removed from the centre and the emergencies ministry has assured the public it has the situation under control.

Nearly 500 soldiers were battling flames in the area.

Military prosecutors said Friday that a fire on July 29 had destroyed a paratroops base outside Moscow, the second confirmed case of the wildfires hitting a major strategic site.

Medvedev has already warned Russia’s top two naval commanders and sacked a string of officers for failing to halt a fire last week that destroyed 13 warehouses and 17 storage areas at a naval logistics base.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said his forces were also working flat out to prevent the fires spreading to the Bryansk region in western Russia where the soil is still contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Russia’s chief doctor Gennady Onishchenko said 78 children’s holiday camps had been closed due to the heatwave and smoke and 10,000 children taken home to their parents.

The mortality rate in Moscow soared by 50 percent in July compared to the same period last year, according to Yevgenia Smirnova, an official from the Moscow registry office.

Watchdog to look into Kiesha’s welfare

NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour said on Thursday he would make inquiries into “relevant activities by key agencies” in the weeks leading up to the disappearance of six-year-old Kiesha four days ago.

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Kiesha, who was reported missing from her home at Mount Druitt in western Sydney on Sunday morning, is not believed to have been seen by anyone outside her immediate family since July 7.

Her mother Kristi Abrahams, stepfather Robert Smith and biological father Christopher Weippeart spent several hours on Wednesday helping police with their inquiries at Mount Druitt police station.

Detectives were tight-lipped on Thursday about whether they had gleaned any new leads or insights from the interviews.

Earlier this week, police said they were investigating reports the family had been in contact with the NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS).

Kiesha ‘not seen at school for weeks’

They confirmed Kiesha had not been to school for the past three weeks, amid reports she had attended school on only a handful of days this year. School attendance in NSW is compulsory from the age of six.

Mr Barbour said he would not comment further “due to the sensitivity of the matter” but said his inquiries followed “concerns” raised in recent days.

As ombudsman, Mr Barbour is responsible for the oversight of the delivery of community services in NSW.

But he has the power to make his own inquiries into issues within his jurisdiction, when there is significant public interest.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said on Thursday the government needed to reassure the public this was not another incident where a child known to DoCS had been ignored.

“I think what the public wants to know today is firstly where is Kiesha and secondly to be reassured that the circumstances that led to previous tragedy haven’t been repeated here in some way,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Premirer denies to comment

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has declined to comment on whether Kiesha was known to DoCs.

“Our focus in the disappearance of Kiesha Abrahams is very much focused on the police search for this missing little girl, and the police are continuing their extensive search right now,” she said on Thursday.

Police continued to search in the surrounding suburbs of Mount Druitt, and police divers probed some of the local waterways, a State Crime Command spokeswoman said.

Door-to-door inquiries are also continuing.

Ms Abrahams says she last saw her daughter when she tucked her into bed about 9.30pm (AEST) on Saturday night at her unit on Woodstock Avenue.

The next morning, Kiesha’s bed was empty and the front door was ajar, although there was no sign of a forced entry, and her family have speculated she may have let herself out.

Ms Abrahams has begged the public to stop judging her.

“They need to stop judging me, they don’t know me,” a visibly distressed Ms Abrahams told Channel Seven news on Wednesday.

Ms Abrahams said Kiesha had been “with me” for the previous three weeks.

Anyone who has seen Kiesha, who is about 140cm tall with blonde hair and blue eyes and was wearing pink pyjamas and a purple Pumpkin Patch jacket, should phone Mount Druitt police station on 9675 0000 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Gillard fields questions on Q&A

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has subjected herself to a hail of questions from a live television audience, but the curliest one came earlier in the day from a school kid.

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On a whistlestop tour of the west, Ms Gillard arrived on Sunday night before heading to the marginal seat of Canning, where former WA Labor minister Alannah MacTiernan is challenging Liberal incumbent Don Randall.

The prime minister went to Challis Primary School in Armadale to announce her government’s $482.1 million education program, saying she wanted to speak directly to the people involved, not just the media.

After her PowerPoint presentation to parents, teachers and students, an 11-year-old boy posed a question.

Lachlain Donoghue asked if teachers would get paid more in light of the prime minister’s plans to pay good teachers bonuses.

The prime minister did not answer directly, saying the bonuses would recognise and reward good teachers for their efforts but not touching on overall wage rises.

In addition to cash incentives for teachers and schools, Ms Gillard announced an Australian baccalaureate and national online assessment options for parents to monitor their children’s progress.

Schools and teachers would reap the rewards of better performances, with $75,000 for primary schools that improved their attendance, literacy and numeracy rates.

High schools would gain $100,000 for improving attendance and retention rates, year 12 results and the number of students going on to higher education, training or work.

Federal Labor would also recognise the importance of a strong state school education system, the prime minister said

. She rejected a suggestion poorer schools would be disadvantaged or that the system could be rorted.

At a press conference Ms Gillard sidestepped a question about whether the powerful teachers union would be happy with the idea.

The union has been vocal in its opposition to Labor’s My School website and the national literacy and numeracy assessments

. Leaving Perth, the prime minister surprised journalists by appearing in the role of flight attendant and greeting passengers as they boarded their aircraft.

Ms Gillard joined the travelling media on their charter flight after issues with her VIP plane.

They flew to Adelaide, where she was grilled by a studio audience for ABC Television’s Q&A program.

The audience had two former Labor leaders – Kevin Rudd and Mark Latham – on its mind.

Ms Gillard’s campaigning on Saturday was marked by uncomfortable meetings with both men.

One audience member asked whether she had apologised to Mr Rudd for his abrupt disposal. “I can understand that Australians woke up and they were pretty surprised at the events of that day,” she said.

Among the lighter moments was when the prime minister was asked, “how big of a tool is Mark Latham?” on a scale of one to 10, with, “one being just bearable and 10 being massively annoying”. Ms Gillard laughed heartily before responding, “There are some things that can’t be measured”.

Grain ban could spike food prices

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has sparked worries over a spike in the cost of basic foodstuffs after his shock ban on Russian grain exports over a record drought sent wheat prices to new highs.

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Wheat prices increased by around 10 per cent on global commodities markets following the announcement that the world’s third wheat exporter was banning grain exports until December 31 to prevent inflation on the domestic market.

Russia has seen 10 million hectares of arable land destroyed amid the heatwave and the government has warned production this year will be lower than annual domestic demand at 70-75 million tonnes of grain.

“It is going to interrupt trade and create instability in the market… a situation which was not serious has now become serious,” Abdolreza Abbassian, economist and secretary of the Intergovernmental Group on Grains at the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

“It was a very quick and unexpected decision,” he told AFP in Rome.

Putin’s powerful deputy Igor Shuvalov told Russian radio on Friday that the decision “could be revised depending on the harvest” but he did not give further details.

Crucially, the government decree signed by Putin also stated that the decision should be matched by its partners in a regional customs union, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is also a major player on global grain markets and officials in Astana said its position could be made clear next week.

Shares in brewers slumped on Friday on the news, with Carslberg down over four per cent in Copenhagen and Diageo, which owns the Guinness brand, falling over two per cent in London.

Russia’s state railways (RZhD) meanwhile announced it would halt all transport of Russian grain exports from August 7.

In Russia, reactions have ranged from surprise at the length of the ban to sheer shock that such a drastic move has been made just as Russia was looking to ramp up its global market share.

Analysts said exporters would likely profit as they would no longer have to fulfill unprofitable contracts but the losers would likely be the producers whose export markets would now be cut off.

“The government has supported a dozen speculators and it has spat at the losses of millions of peasants,” Boris Yankovsky, chief executive of the Maksima agricultural firm of the Rostov region of southern Russia, told Vedomosti.

Analysts Alexandra Evtifyeva and Dmitry Fedotkin of VTB Capital predicted that as a result of the step Russia’s export of wheat this year could now be 6-7 million tonnes lower that the planned 10 million to 14 million tonnes.

“The duration of the ban seems sufficiently long to make producers put a part of their grain into the domestic market and partly stabilise prices,” they added.

But other analysts cast doubt on whether the ban would even help keep down domestic prices.

“We are not convinced that this move will have a positive impact on the local grain market,” said Natalya Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank in Moscow.

“We doubt the move will compel (Russian exporters) to sell this grain domestically. Only if the government buys the grain from exporting companies and intervenes on the domestic market will the move help stabilise prices.”

Wheat prices stabilised on Friday after the dramatic rises the day earlier, with the November future trading 215 euros per metric tonne on the Euronext exchange, down three per cent on opening.

The FAO said this week that should the Russian drought continue “it could pose problems for winter plantings (in Russia) with potentially serious implications for world wheat supplies in 2011-12.”

But it said world inventories can cover the shortfall and fears of a new global food crisis similar to that of 2007 and 2008 “are not justified at this point”.

NSW releases hospital networks plan

The creation of local networks is a key component of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s overhaul of the national health system.

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The state government on Thursday released details of plans to break up eight NSW area health services into 17 local hospital networks.

The government wants to create eight networks in the greater Sydney metropolitan area – which includes the Central Coast, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains – and seven regional networks.

Two statewide specialist networks for Children’s Health and Forensic Mental Health have also been proposed.

The new networks would be administered by a chief executive and a governing council of between nine and 13 members, which will include local clinicians and people with business and finance backgrounds.

NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt defended the area health services, frequently maligned for being too bureaucratic.

Ms Tebbutt said the new networks would create better local involvement and better patient care.

“There is no doubt that the amalgamation of our area health services back in 2005 delivered some huge benefits to our health system – we were able to reduce administrative staff and plough those savings back into frontline services (and) we were also able to develop clinical networks of care,” she told reporters at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

“We recognise that one of the issues that our large area health services struggled to do was to get the level of clinical engagement, the level of community engagement. So we’re addressing that.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) supported the changes because they gave local doctors a role in the running of hospitals.

“The important thing is to get the governing fundamentals right,” AMA NSW branch president Michael Steiner said.

“It is especially important that the doctors who serve on the governing bodies of the local hospital networks are nominated by their colleagues rather than appointed by bureaucrats.”

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell accused the government of stealing coalition policy to set up district hospital boards.

“Patients have suffered while Labor defended their failed area health services,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“This is a change that could and should have happened years ago and it’s only happening now because Labor desperately wants to get re-elected.”

Premier Kristina Keneally has meanwhile criticised federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s multibillion dollar health and hospitals policy, saying it would undo the COAG reforms.

Mr Abbott on Thursday unveiled his $3.1 billion hospitals plan, which will help pay for an extra 2800 hospital beds over four years.

“What Mr Abbott is proposing is a one-off injection of funds,” Ms Keneally said.

“It does nothing to address the structural challenges that exist in the health and hospital system, does nothing to address the challenges of an ageing population.”

Not-for-profit reform plan welcomed

Not-for-profit organisations have praised the Gillard government for its plan to get “really serious” and cut red tape within the sector.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised to set up an office for the not-for-profit sector as well as a reform council if Labor wins a second term on August 21.

Catholic Social Services Australia’s director Frank Quinlan said the announcement was welcome news for a sector that has been strangled by bureaucracy.

A survey conducted last year showed that just 19 of its members had 620 separate contracts with state and federal governments, to implement really basic programs.

“That sort of administration and bureaucracy and red tape wastes a lot of resources that we could be spending on vulnerable and needy Australians,” Mr Quinlan told reporters on Monday.

He said Ms Gillard’s announcement showed Labor was “really serious about addressing those problems” and urged the coalition and the Greens to offer their bipartisan support.

Up to 50 per cent of funding of some programs was wasted on administration, Mr Quinlan said.

With demand for social services rising steadily, he said it was vital for government to support the sector.

He said governments over time had become risk adverse, opting to micro-manage rather than risk bad press for small mistakes.

“A small problem in a program can really become a huge political problem, so it’s quite understandable at one level to micro-manage and manage every sort of step.

“But these are problems that can take generations to overcome, so the short term political cycle is really not the sort of the place where these policies should be determined.”

Anglicare Australia, which helps out one in every 40 Australians, said reform would see services better directed to those who needed it.

Vision Australia’s Michael Simpson said introducing single-point reporting could potentially make a huge difference, cutting down on the time spent on applications and tenders.

He said the government appeared to have listened to the sector, which roundly appealed for significant change in submissions to a 2009 Productivity Commission.