The federal government started with a tax break for mining companies and big corporations at the same time as asking average families to “shoulder the burden”.
The lack of equity and fair play is nowhere clearer than the attacks on Medicare, cuts to Australian Aid and $100,000 university degrees.
Medicare is a universal healthcare insurance system that ensures access to better healthcare for all people, irrespective of their financial or social circumstances, by removing cost as a barrier.
Those who have the wherewithal pay more to Medicare through higher taxes. After that there is no distinction about who is using the system, which ensures health is not distributed as “charity”.
The first phase of the Abbott government’s ideological attack on Medicare was the Budget announcement of the $7 co-payment for health services. Later Fairfax newspapers reported the government was going ahead with its plan to explore a “commercially integrated health payment system”. Half a million dollars was allocated to the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to develop a proposal to market test it.
In August there was an attempt to move part of the Medicare system into private hands. The government provided a two-week lead time for the private sector to submit an expression of interest to provide a claims and payment solution for Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) transactions.
On its own, administrative systems would probably have not been an issue. However, in the context of the Budget and the determination of the government to undermine Medicare, even these issues became a major concern for many as the thin end of the wedge.
When the Senate rejected the compulsory co-payment, the government didn’t seem to get the message, despite that our parliamentary democratic system had rejected the attacks on Medicare, on its universality and on the notion of a “fair go” for all Australians.
Instead of accepting the Senate decision they found a “back door” and attempted to introduce the same system in a slightly modified form.
However, they did not restrict the ideological attacks on equity to taxation and health.
Our concept of a “fair go” is one that should be shared with our international neighbours. Australia is one of the richest countries in the world on any sensible measure.
The December financial update was used to launch a vicious attack on Australia’s aid budget slashing it by $3.7 billion.
Cutting foreign aid will just make Australians appear even more selfish and self-serving and put our security at greater risk. We need to be supporting development not cutting it.
Education is fundamental to a “fair go” as, more than anything else, it facilitates social mobility. The idea of $100,000 degrees is simply preposterous in the Australian setting.
This approach risks the American path where, with few exceptions, only those from wealthier families have the opportunity to attend the best universities. Low-income students attend through bursaries and scholarships. Is education-by-charity any more in the Australian psyche than it is with health?
Ordinary families want all Australians to have an equitable start in life, equitable access to health care and be prepared to look after neighbours in need. Any government eroding these concepts is sure to have a limited political life.