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Hands off Medicare

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?


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  1. diannaart

    Big Business is harmed by paying for pollution…but acceptable for poor, elderly to pay more for essential service…

    You’re on fire Victoria, haved FB’d 2 articles in 1 day.

  2. Fed up

    They say that Medicare is unsustainable. This could only be, it the levy is not raising enough to meet the cost. Simple, raise the levy. An honest and open action to take. Also rebates to the wealthy can have Abbott’;s wrecking ball taken to them.

    As for the carbon tax. It is not aimed at using less electricity. That is why one was given recompensation for the extra cost.

    It is aimed at electricity that is generated from fossil fuel.

    The aim is to raise the cost of electricity generated this was. The aim is to replace fossil fuel with renewals.

    In the long run, the aim is to have a cleaner generation of fuel.

    The money from the alleged tax also allows individual manufacturers to have cleaned, and in the long run cheaper and cleaner plants.

    A win win situation, one would say.

    Do not but Abbott; s claim, that the alleged toxic tax is aimed at dearer electricity, and less usage. This is false, and he knows it.

    Why does not one see the money spent on health as an investment for the future of the country.

    Years, many new medical procedures are expensive. They also allow people to live healthier, productive lives., Yes, they get people back to work

    Same goes for education and OH&S.

    All needed for us to have continues growth and take our place in the Asian century.

    The answer to their question, that we cannot afford these things, is that we cannot afford to go down the path, Ms. Gillard, as PM was taking the country.

  3. David

    The way in which the left is baying at the moon about the $5 or $6 charge (of which pensioners and concession holders would be exempt from) you would think that every GP in the country bulk bills.
    As any thinking and educated person knows this is simply not the case, in fact you are hard pressed to find a bulk billing doctor these days. I have recently shifted house, and had to go to the local doctor, which happens to be a bulk billing doctor, the first I have been to in 13 years, since living in Melbourne.
    The USUAL gap for a GP visit is around $20 (give or take).
    As usual the left are screeching like banshees over what they say is their ENTITLEMENT….. I also note that when Gillard increased the Medicare levy last year, it was the same crowd, and the social workers who screeched back then…..
    The trouble with the left is they have a sense of entitlement because they exist, and seem to think that money grows on trees, and they should be treated as they feel they are ENTITLED to be…. dare to ask them to pay for something, dare to suggest an increase in taxes or levies to cover off the cost of what they feel ENTITLED to, and they screech like banshees….. and blame big business, the rich etc…..
    well hows this for an idea, instead of having a house with 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms and everything that open and shuts, 2 cars and private education for the kids, you reign in your indulgences… and pay for essentials first, and perhaps take out Health Insurance…. oh, and statistics showed that health insurance membership increased, when a rebate was introduced by Liberal, and decreased when the rebate was scrapped by Labor….. go figure!

  4. David

    Why do the left feel that a $5 or $6 dollar gap for visiting the Doctor is a new tax? Most Medical clinics charge a minimum of $20 gap to visit the doctor.

    I also ask why do the left only ever tell half the story? You omitted to mention that pensioners and concession card holders would be exempt from such a charge, as well as there would be 12 exempted visits from this charge. BUT then, the facts don’t incite fear and back your story as much as your version of fact do they?

    The left always have a sense of entitlement, I exist, I pay tax so therefore the govt should pander to my every requirement. I also note that it was the left that screeched loudest when Gillard up’d the Medicare levy last year.

    It was interesting to note that private health insurance membership increased dramatically under Howard, when the 30% incentive was introduced, and decreased significantly when Gillard removed it. SO… we have a public health system under crisis, with more and more money being spent on it, an aging population who will require more and more health treatments, and the left who seem to think that money grows on trees, and due to them merely exisiting, they are entitled to free health….. well it doesnt take Einstein to work out that with a shrinking tax paying population, and an increasing group of people who believe they are entitled…. that something has to give……

    But then the Left arent a very bright bunch!

  5. Fed up

    It is not about a sense of entitlement, which by the way those of the wealthy are greater.

    It is about the stupidity of the proposal, one that at the very least is inefficient.

    It is based on the proposition, that low income earners rort the system, going to doctors unneccesary.

    It is to do with the ideology and beliefs of those on the extreme right.

    Nothing to do with good governance or the economy.

    I5t is based on undermining Medicare, something they have been attempting to do since the days of Hawke, or even back to Medibank.

  6. Kaye Lee


    “dare to suggest an increase in taxes or levies to cover off the cost of what they feel ENTITLED to, and they screech like banshees”

    I seem to remember a lot of squealing when Labor tired to stop people from rorting the FBT by asking them to provide a log nook once every 5 years. hardly an onerous task…except thousands of people had been claiming business usage that they had apparently not been entitled to.

    I seem to remember something about “Axe the tax”…in fact I saw a very….err…Liberal ad on youtube of a guy with an axe. Hope they don’t pay these advertising gurus too much.

    Those miners can’t possibly afford to pay tax. In fact let’s give them a whole special tax zone o0f their own up north.

    And don’t dare try and take away that private health insurance rebate for people ion over 260,000. They are entitled to it…just like women of calibre are entitled to have 6 months off at almost 3 grand a week paid for by us because we all know that rich babies cost more.

    Hockey just got rid of over 3 billion in revenue by getting rid of taxes.

    You want to rethink that statement Dave?

  7. Chris

    Thanks Victoria for another great article. The Liberals own decisions are behind the blow-out in the deficit. Repealing the price on carbon and the MRRT, are only part of ($12 billion part) but their billions in tax cuts for wealthy people and miners plus their excessively generous PPL.
    In true Liberal style they’re refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions, the government of no excuses and Abbott telling us the buck stopped with him. All we’be had is the excuse that Labor are to blame and Abbott passing the buck.
    The poor will be lumped with the cost of paying for poor Liberal decisions and most informed people were aware that this would be the tact taken by this government. They did warn ( or tried to) but with Labor couldn’t get get traction in the traditional media. We need to protest these actions loud and long and let this government know how we feel about the decisions they have been making.

  8. Terry2

    This $5 to $6 co-payment idea is another instance of the Abbott government not thinking through its ideas (you can’t call them policies). The co-payment would only apply to Bulk Billing doctors and, I don’t know about where you live but we would have to drive an hour and a half to find the closest bulk biller. The co-payment would not apply to pensioners or those on disability or unemployment benefits and would be means tested for everyone else: to collect $5 would probably cost ten times that amount.

    The doctor we use already charges $25 over the Medicare reimbursement so we already make a substantial co-payment. What on earth is this new brain-fart all about ? If the Medicare system is unsustainable then cut out the subsidy to the thirty four private health insurance companies (currently running at $5.4 billion p.a.). A properly funded Medicare system is far more important.

    And, to our venerable main stream media: for heavens sake winkle Peter Dutton – he’s our Health Minister in case you didn’t know – out of his hole to explain himself.

  9. John Fraser



    I wonder why the "extreme evangelic right" never mention that cutting the private health fund rebate would result in a $4 billion saving.

    I would have thought that user pays wouldn't mind paying full price for private coverage.

    "Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

  10. John Fraser


    Poor sad little "Dave" really should pay an extra $6 …. to get a psychological assessment so that he will be able to explain to people why he loves hitting the most vulnerable people in the community.

    He could stand in line with his $6 behind Abbott and Pyne.

  11. lawrencewinder

    $6.00 is about 2.5% of a single weekly pension. Let’s do a Clive “The-Big-Miner” Palmer and have a flat-tax payment .Then people like Gail Kelly can pay $960.50 per visit. That should make-em squeal.
    At least it brings into better focus how the well-off minority are always getting the breaks.

  12. Bacchus

    Simple – get rid of the extravagant and inefficient private health insurance rebate. Put that money into the MUCH more efficient public system – watch the ENTITLEMENT screams from the Davids of this world should that happen 😉

    Given that Australians value the benefits of having the choice of private care if they desire, it is probably reasonable that they pay for this choice. The issue here is why the government should subsidise individuals to buy private health insurance. The question of whether private health insurance has delivered on its much heralded benefits is still the subject of continuing debate. It is clear that rebates for private health insurance are expensive and fiscally unsustainable. The evidence presented in this policy brief shows that reducing rebates could potentially yield substantial public sector savings.

  13. Joe Banks

    Victoria, you have been busy (thankfully). I keep asking, why is this government so intent on digging around at the bottom end of the market, so to speak, for a few million here and a few million there, always from those who can least afford it, when they can simply keep the carbon tax, keep the mining super profits tax, and raise top-end tax just a smidgen? Budgetary problem solved! Paul Keating was so right – they are mean little people.

  14. Steve Ackerman

    Excellent article and the historical references to governments attempts to mess about with Medicare reminded me of the Megalogenis book ‘ The Longest Decade ‘. The Hewson / Liberal Fightback package contained quite a drastic change to the Medicare system and the exit polling was fascinating because it showed that voters were far more concerned about this policy than the GST.
    So please Tony, please don’t learn from history. Anybody taking odds for the big I.R shake up ?

  15. Fed up

    Bacchus, we will surely hear from the wealthy. Their sense of entitlement is well and truly on show, when one of Abbott’s first actions, is to repeal the leglisatriion of Gillard, replacing the rebate. Sadly there is no evidence at all, that Medicare benefits from this rebate.

    Same goes for the miners sense of entitlement, that they are to keep all they earn. They believe this, even when the ore they are making it those excessive windfall profits from, belong to the people.

    No it is not the Laborites and the poor that have an overblown sense of entitlement in this land. It is those from upper income earners.

    Then there was the closing of the FBT where people were buying cars, abusing the tax benefit. Yes, the car was supposed to be used within one job, not driving to work. Yes,

    Where is the tax rebate for those, who use public transport or other means to get to work.

  16. John Fraser


    If there was a "new big tax" on Medicare that would most likely mean that there would be those who would have to give less to their church.

    That would mean less money for the catholic church (and others) to hire lawyers to defend themselves against accusations that they covered up abuse by predatory priests or were heartless when dealing with those who had the courage to fight them …. against massive odds.

    Now Australians will get to see if religions get to Abbott to change the Charities Act which the Gillard government enacted and which came into force on New Years day.

    The religions will not like having to supply information about their finances and other "matters".

  17. brickbob

    I am also reluctant to give Abbott advice but if he even looks like charging 5 or 6 dollars a visit or making any negative changes to Medicare he is gone for all money. Conservative governments have tried in the past and it has ended in tears for them,Australians love their Medicare and any government who tries to dismantle it will be commiting political suicide. So go ahead Mr Abbott by all means,but even i dont think you would be that stupid.”” Then again””””””

  18. Matters not.

    David you said:

    But then the Left arent (sic) a very bright bunch!

    Then we have:

    … you reign in your indulgences …

    For your information the word ‘reign’ usually:

    means to rule or to possess supreme power over something or someone

    Perhaps you mean ‘rein’.

    Here’s a link for the not so bright.

    Sorry to rain on your rant.

  19. Carol Taylor

    Matters not, I prefer the word “reign” as in to rule, that is we reign/rule in our indulgences. 😉

    One’s sense of justice does kick in on this matter, a struggling family (as in one reported scenario, 3 kids all with asthma)..should it be a matter of choice as to which child you can afford to take to the doctor? In the meantime, the wealthy receive subsidies for unproven alternative therapies and massages. Now, it is a matter of personal choice whether one should want to have a lomi lomi massage, but should the less well to do be confronted with the accusation that they “overuse” bulk billing, and that this “overuse” is that which needs to be addressed?

  20. Fed up

    We all ready have gap payments for most, including those on benefits when it comes to specialists.

    Why do we want another co-payment as well.

    One either puts up the levy, or increase the gap we already have.

    I am a pensioner, pm the Central Coast NSW. Most GP’s and all specialists do not bulk build. Yes, I am already making, co-payment.

    It does not make any sense to add a new one.

  21. Fed up

    I thought the Charities Act was to be amended. In fact, I thought many of that side, are happy to leave it up to Common Law.

  22. Carol Taylor

    Fed up, it makes sense if Abbott is about to embark on a campaign against “the undeserving poor”. Already journalists in the msm are talking about “unnecessary visits” to the GP and to hospitals’ Emergency Departments. It’s seems that Abbott would prefer that we all drop dead from a heart attack than make “unnecessary visits” when it was a false alarm.

  23. Fed up

    Well it makes no sense to me, not getting medical attention, spending the rest of one’s life not getting off the couch.

    Much more sensible to keep all healthy and working.

    Nothing that David is spruiking, has any relevance to this post. Cannot bother wasting one’s time, replying.

  24. scotchmistery

    >> Fed Up points well made.

    The fact that Sad old David is actually working on a Sunday, as a member of the monied elites, seems a bit concerning, since he refuses to be paid overtime.

    As a salesman for Kinky-Textor the people who brought you 7 year old girls dressed as available in the David Jones catalogue, his grasp of politics is a tiny bit limited but he does put up a good show in trying to deal with his thinking betters, don’t you think?

  25. leighton8

    Increasingly it would appear that Abbott and crew are reading from a playbook provided directly from Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and the A.L.E.C. organization (aka the Koch Brothers Fan Club) in the United States.

  26. rossleighbrisbane

    I notice that David didn’t talk at all about the reduction in the tax write-off for business, but I guess he agrees that business too have a sense of entitlement and he’s a 100% behind that.
    Still again he seems to be another Liberal supporter whose main line of attack is to call everyone who disagrees with him stupid. And why not, it got Abbott into government. Although just blaming the Labor party for everything seems to be wearing a little thin with the electorate.

  27. Haderak

    IMHO this is the WRONG way to reduce the cost of the health system.

    Nick Ross did an excellent treatment of the RIGHT way to do it. Spoiler: you need to use the Interwebs to do it 🙂

    Find it at

    (makes me sad that we came so close to getting this…)

  28. Kaye Lee

    Excellent article Haderak. I would suggest sending it to Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. I heard Tony Windsor say studies had shown that if we could facilitate 20% of elderly people being able to stay in their own homes 1 year longer before going into care that we would save 60 billion over 10 years – NBN paid for!

  29. John Fraser



    Very good Link.

  30. Haderak

    Getting a little bit off topic, but the NBN is my hobby-horse of choice.

    For a great overview of recent history, try David Braue’s month-by-month coverage:

    …and if you’re into a little bit of Malcolm-baiting, check out these ones from Renai LeMay at Delimiter:

    Please accept my apologies: I was wrong about Malcolm Turnbull

    Greens, Labor, slam Coalition’s NBN “train wreck”


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