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Colin Barnett is on the brink of caving in to worried Liberal backbenchers and accepting an 8pm closing for weeknight shopping rather than the 9pm time he took to the election last year.
  
The Premier has been softening the public up for an 8pm closing time in recent days and again said yesterday that it was an acceptable alternative. 
  
The West Australian understands that most Liberals don’t want 9pm and would prefer a 7pm closing time but are prepared to accept 8pm to save the Premier the embarrassment of being rolled by his own party.
  
Mr Barnett has been canvassing his MPs one-on-one in recent days and knows that 9pm is beyond his reach.

The Nationals say they will not support changes to shopping hours, which they fear would deliver a crucial blow to WA producers because it would increase the market share of big supermarkets
   
The Government will rely on Labor to get legislation on later weeknight shopping hours through Parliament but the ALP took a position of 7pm to the election and is not guaranteed to support a later closing time. A Labor spokeswoman said yesterday that shadow Cabinet and caucus would discuss the party’s position once the Government’s preference was known.
 
Cabinet discussed the shopping hours issue last Monday and Mr Barnett is expected to take his preferred position to the party room on Tuesday, but the Upper House is not sitting, and the meeting will be only for Assembly MPs, meaning that a vote on the issue will probably be delayed a week.
  
Mr Barnett said yesterday that most people in the retail industry, including the unions, favoured a 9pm closing time from Monday to Friday to bring all weeknights into line with existing late-night shopping.
  
“That’s a position I think is logical, however a number of people are saying 8pm might be better. I don’t think there’s a big difference between the two,” he said.
  
“To simply extend it to 7pm would be pointless.
  
“So, 8pm, yeah that’s OK, 9pm might be better but at least either of those would be a significant extension to weeknight shopping.”

But backbenchers are under pressure from small businesses to wind back the closing time, believing that the later hour is supported only by Coles and Woolworths.
  
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson urged politicians from both sides to “stand up to vested interest groups, which are determined to deny West Australians more choice and lower prices when they shop”.  

ROBERT TAYLOR, PETER KERR and AMANDA BANKS

Source www.thewest.com.au

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Fertility doctors are worried they will be under pressure to implant multiple embryos into women who cannot afford ongoing treatment due to new financial safety net caps, a leading IVF specialist says

Having two embryos implanted into the uterus instead of one raises a woman’s chance of having a multiple birth, says IVF Australia chairman Professor Michael Chapman.

As part of Medicare Safety Net restrictions unveiled in Tuesday’s budget, payments for IVF will be capped at different rates for each stage of treatment once a person reaches the safety net threshold for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which is $1,111.60, or $555.70 for those on low incomes.
This could hit women with an extra $1,500 to $2,000 of out-of-pocket costs per IVF cycle.

There are also caps on safety net payments in other areas including obstetrics, varicose vein and cataract surgery.                                                        embryo

Under the changes, pregnant women who choose to see a private obstetrician will be out of pocket by $550 unless doctors lower their fees.

“That is why the government is urging women to question their doctors about their fees,” Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.

An average of $4.5 million of taxpayers’ money is paid to the top 10 per cent of IVF specialists each year.

But Prof Chapman said the government, which says it wants to crack down on specialists who charge exorbitant fees, was using the figures for political gain.

“For every doctor that gets money, there are 10 staff members, the scientists, counsellors and nurses, they get funded through the rebate,” he told AAP.

Prof Chapman said he accepted there had been a 40 per cent rise in IVF fees over the past five years but said that it was in line with general medical inflation.

Current Medicare rebates, which work out to about $4,200 per child, go towards employing about 2,000 people in private IVF clinics nationally and investing in research and facilities, Prof Chapman said.

He estimated out-of-pocket costs for patients would rise from $1,600 to between $3,000 and $3,500 when the safety net caps come into effect on July 1, 2010.

It can often take more than one IVF cycle for a woman to fall pregnant.

“Certainly, patients are going to be more out of pocket for IVF than they have been in the past,” Prof Chapman said.

He warned doctors would be under pressure to implant more than one embryo per cycle into women as a result of safety net restrictions, increasing the chance of multiple births.

“Over the last five years in Australia the twin rate has dropped dramatically because we have been able to put one embryo back,” he said.

“But if patients think they won’t be able to afford the next cycle they will put a lot of pressure on the doctor to put two embryos back.”

Ms Roxon said her department would work with medical professionals to restructure the system to better reflect stages in a treatment cycle.
www.sbs.com.au

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