Mungo (Felt pen on Echo newspaper clippings) by Jeni Binns

I dipped in and out of Mungo MacCallum’s life for decades, starting with an introduction in the office in (old) Parliament House, Canberra that he shared with my childhood friend, the late Helen Ester (nee Cunningham), an accomplished journalist who held similar views of the Australian political class.

Helen worked for the Inside Canberra newsletter, later launching her own publication, Monitor. Mungo was writing for outlets far and wide. I was astounded that these bright sparks could turn out wonderful stories from such a claustrophobic office.

Mungo and I shared space and time in two media outlets, the quirky Nation Review and ABC radio’s Double J where I interviewed him each afternoon for the Frontline news program: “So, Mungo, what’s been happening in Australian politics today…?”, and off he’d go.

Later, as editor of the Lismore Echo, I engaged him to write a weekly column that we titled, with his amused approval, ‘Political Corrections’.

year of the rat

In the Chinese calendar, 2020 was the year of the rat although some would argue it was the year of the bat or perhaps even the pangolin.

According to the calendar, the rat is the first of a 12 year cycle where each year is associated with an animal. There is also a superimposed elemental cycle (of which there are five) and 2020 was the first metal rat in 60 years. The rat is associated with the Northern winter and white, the colour of snow.

As befits the new era of a metal rat, 2020 saw major changes in medical communication technology. Most of what medical practitioners did continued as usual except everything now had an “e-” option.

Patients from many practices started to make e-bookings through one of several online commercial medical booking providers. Log in and find your favourite GP and book for her next available appointment.

As I write this the total number of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 / Covid19 in the species Homo sapiens sapiens is 66,868,965, with 1,430,389 deaths. Given a global population of 7.8 billion, that’s approximately one death per 5,500 people.

Ours is not the only species susceptible to infection with Covid-19. This article attempts to describe what that might mean for us and for other species.

Just as the dromedary camel was susceptible to MERS, some other mammal species have structurally similar binding sites for Covid19 (aka SARS-CoV-2). These are primarily the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptors in the lungs, to which the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins attach. Similar binding sites means that these species can potentially be infected with it. (Although fewer of these mammal species are similarly affected by it due to different host immune responses.)

The consequences of this fact have several aspects:
Firstly, there’s the risk of zoonotic (animal to human) spill-over from an intermediate host, as was recently seen in Denmark with a dozen human cases of infection with a Mink mutation variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Primary Health Networks (PHNs) were originally envisaged as local organisations that knew their local area and its needs and could tailor their programs to their individual circumstances. They arose following a review of the predecessors, Medicare Locals, by John Horvath in May 2014. 

By devolving a lot of decision making from Canberra to 31 geographic areas each of just under a million people, the Federal Government could be more efficient in getting value for its health dollar. Many GPs welcomed this approach and looked forward to having a close working relationship with their PHNs to further primary care.

A criticism of the previous Medicare Locals was that, on occasions, they were direct providers of services and thus in competition with other similar providers in their areas. The conflict caused by this direct competition was deemed unfair by the Coalition government who prefer a market driven approach to funding government services. PHNs were thus designed to only be commissioners of services and provide no clinical services directly themselves.

Dr Harry Freeman

Dr Harry Freeman reflects on his long career.

In the 1970s my first year training in psychiatry was in a huge mental hospital in country New South Wales - there were ten such hospitals, all about 100 years old - sandstone, farm self-supporting, beautiful gardens - run by the nurses and only a couple of doctors.


A hospital house for working wife and baby (and Grandma), pay rise from $4,000 per annum as a similar RMO to $7000 as a registrar, ignorant, grandiose, political activist, anti-Vietnam, anti dominant paradigm, cocktail pianist, energetic and not hesitating. I felt good.