Hands off MedicarePosted: January 5, 2014
The Abbott government haven’t used the holiday season merely to dump unpopular policies on out-of-office media teams and too-relaxed-to-take-much-notice Australian voters. They’ve also leaked/floated a few ideas that they plan to miraculously endorse after the release of the Commission of Audit, except that they’ve clearly thought the ideas up already. Go figure. One of these ideas which hasn’t received much media coverage is the plan to remove the small business instant asset-write-off tax deduction, which also didn’t receive much media coverage before the election when Abbott announced it as policy. I guess Abbott’s cheer leaders in the mainstream media don’t want to make themselves look like idiots by admitting that policies like this are completely contradictory to the ‘open for business’ narrative which they have accepted without question and without scrutiny. Not wanting to look like idiots is a noble motivation, and explains why the right wing commentators are now going after the ABC (how dare they report the failings of the Abbott government) and Peppa Pig (look over there – a pig with a handbag!). But another of the ideas floated over the Christmas break which definitely was not mentioned by Abbott before the election is the suggestion that visits to your local GP, and possibly emergency rooms, will be charged $5 or $6. Quite fairly, Labor has already begun to refer to this fee as a GREAT BIG TAX. (You have to say it slowly like you’re struggling to remember the next word, to really get the tone as Abbott-like as possible). Apart from the obviously hypocritical stance of a man who did nothing else as Opposition Leader except tour businesses across the country, campaigning against the Carbon Price, because it was going to increase people’s ‘cost of living’ through a small increase in their electricity bills, the policy is a ridiculously stupid idea for other reasons. Firstly, the administrative cost to raise such a small amount ($750 million over four years) doesn’t seem to make the political cost of this policy worth it. There are many other ways to save this sort of money. For example, Abbott could reduce the fuel-tax-credits rate for mining companies. But of course, Abbott wouldn’t dream of upsetting his friends/donors in the mining industry. That really would be political suicide. On top of this, Medicare is a Labor policy which the community is very fond of. As soon as a Liberal government targets free universal healthcare, we are reminded that it was Liberal opposition to Medicare which made it such a huge battle for Labor to deliver the policy in the first place. Liberal and National ideologues have always been against Medicare, and Abbott has wasted no time in reminding us that he is one of these ideologues. He is reminding us that he would be on the Tea Party’s side in the US, calling ObamaCare communism, and getting hysterical about repealing it. He is reminding us that the $5 or $6 fee for visiting a doctor is ultimately a ‘user-pays’ system. What’s next – no more free education? No more social security? This is one very slippery slope which Abbott seems tempted to slide down very early in his first term. Abbott really should read up on his political history if he wants a preview of how the electorate will respond to his GP tax. I hate to look like I’m giving Abbott advice, but since he doesn’t take advice anyway, I feel safe that I will be ignored. Over the last few days, I finally got around to reading George Megalogenis’s book – The Australian Moment. Within days of finding out about Abbott’s GREAT BIG TAX on sick children, I found myself reading Megalogenis’s retelling of the history of Labor’s budget in 1991, delivered by the then Treasurer John Kerin. Kerin was looking for cuts in the budget and suggested a plan to raise funds by charging $3.50 for GP appointments, which would save $1.65 billion over four years. There was a problem for Kerin, however. And that was the community’s reaction to this plan. As Megalogenis explains:
“But if it had a co-payment attached to it, Medicare lost its meaning as a universal health scheme funded directly out of the budget…. Medicare was one of the few things that Labor stood for that people held dear to them. To say the program was unaffordable was code for accusing Australians of being hypochondriacs”.
Labor eventually dropped this plan, and possibly Abbott will too. But I do hope that a brave journalist in the meantime does have a chance to ask Abbott a question about this idea, which would successfully reveal to the Australian public exactly who they elected to run the country. The question would ideally sound something like this: The Carbon Price was designed to send a price-signal to consumers to encourage them to cut down on their electricity usage, in order to reduce carbon emissions, and to reduce climate change. You campaigned against what you called a ‘Carbon Tax’. Can you please tell us, with your plan to send a price-signal to consumers of doctors’ services, which ailments should we stop seeing a doctor for? The lump on our arm which may be skin cancer, or our child’s temperature which may be meningitis? Follow @Vic_Rollison