The Liberal lie continues


In his speech on election night, as reported by The Guardian, Malcolm Turnbull:
… accused the Labor party of running “some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia” in a campaign in which Labor claimed the Coalition was planning to privatise the government funded health insurance system, Medicare.

Turnbull questioned whether there would be a police investigation over the Labor campaign and he accused Labor of sending texts to voters claiming the Coalition would sell Medicare.
The Daily Mail (Australian edition) reported it this way:
“Today, as voters went to the polls, as you would have seen in the press, there were text messages being sent to thousands of people across Australia saying that Medicare was about to be privatised by the Liberal Party,” Mr Turnbull said in the speech.

“The SMS message came from Medicare. It said it came from Medicare. An extraordinary act of dishonesty. No doubt the police will investigate.”
And George Brandis said this:
I think that the thing that made the difference between a reasonably comfortable win and, if this is the case, a very narrow win for the Government, was the fact that the Labor Party threw the kitchen sink at one of the most mendacious and disgraceful campaigns that we've ever seen. The proposition that the Government planned to sell or privatise Medicare was ... a nonsense.
So they accept that the Medicare campaign by Labor had a major effect but they insist it was a lie. Why?

As I pointed out in Turnbull’s Medicare backflip — or is it? the government had begun the process of examining how the Medicare payment system could be outsourced or sold to a private provider. Although the Liberals described this as only the ‘back office’ operations of Medicare, payments are the central role of Medicare. When this first became public news in February, there was no denial that it was taking place.

It was only after Labor aired its Bob Hawke campaign advertisement, that you don’t create a Medicare privatisation task force unless you intend to privatise Medicare, that Turnbull eventually came out and guaranteed that Medicare would not be privatised and that updating the payment system would take place ‘within government’.

Thus, when Labor continued its Medicare campaign, Turnbull and other Liberals claimed that it was based on a ‘lie’. Firstly, remember that denying privatisation came late in the election campaign and only after Labor’s message was obviously having an impact. Before that, or in other words for the first few weeks of the election, privatisation of the payment system was still on the Liberal agenda. Turnbull’s ‘guarantee’ was a decision made on the run and not reflective of what had previously been Liberal policy. It was purely a last minute and desperate political decision.

Secondly, Turnbull’s denials and ‘guarantee’ did not address the other issues surrounding Medicare: namely that Medicare rebates will now be frozen until 2020, making no increase for six years; and that the removal of bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services was still on the table and would be reconsidered after the election. Even the new president of the AMA, Dr Michael Gannon, not a natural ally of the Labor party, pointed out that the freeze would force GPs to charge higher fees and to abandon bulk-billing and that some GPs had already advised the AMA that they were doing so.

Turnbull’s response was that doctors could charge whatever they liked and that if the freeze was removed it would increase the scheduled fee by only 60 cents, or up to $2 if backdated. Those amounts are probably fairly accurate and sound small but if a doctor is seeing between three and six patients per hour for six or seven hours a day, five days a week for 48 weeks of the year, even at 60 cents that could add up to an extra $6000 per year which would no doubt assist in meeting the surgery’s running costs. If there are four doctors in the surgery that is potentially up to $24,000 a year, or about $80,000 if the increase is $2. So despite Turnbull’s attempt to downplay the effect of the freeze, its real impact can be quite substantial for a surgery’s business model over a full year.

The other issue relating to Turnbull’s response is that it continued to ignore the concern that people will have to pay more. By taking the approach he did, he was basically abrogating any responsibility for medical costs — that is not what people expect of the government. What they do expect is that if medical costs rise the government will assist in meeting those costs, not say it is nothing to do with them, that doctors can charge whatever they like. If anything helped raise the profile of Labor’s Medicare campaign in the last days of the election campaign then I think Turnbull’s response did.

Turnbull and the Liberals also tried to emphasise that the freeze had initially been introduced by Labor. That is true. It was introduced by Wayne Swan in the last Labor budget in 2013. What the Liberals didn’t say, thus lying by omission, was that Swan’s freeze was for a total of seven months, from November 2013 until June 2014 — of course, the savings made in that time would be built into future budgets. There was however another reason for that ‘freeze’, not just the need to save a few dollars. Indexation of Medicare scheduled benefits in November was associated with the old budget timetable when budgets were presented in August and new measures (costs) could only apply from 1 December. Since budgets have been presented in May all new measures can apply from 1 July and the change Swan made was to align Medicare indexation with the new budget timetable (most other indexed government payments had already been realigned and Medicare was one of the last). The freeze on Medicare rebates since June 2014 has been purely a Coalition government decision but, of course, they didn’t mention that.

So who was lying about Medicare? If the Coalition plans to continue the Medicare freeze until 2020, surely that is a valid point that Labor can make during an election. And if Medicare is covering less and less of the cost of seeing a doctor or specialist, that is also undermining the very purpose of Medicare. Again it becomes valid to argue that Medicare needs ‘saving’ because the Coalition’s approach would certainly mean that over time it would become worthless as health insurance. So Labor’s campaign of saving Medicare was not a lie. Medicare may not technically be ‘privatised’ but the continued impact of the freeze and removal of bulk billing incentives would have very much the same effect, pushing consumer costs higher and reducing both the health and social benefits of Medicare.

If voters responded to that, Turnbull has only himself to blame. His denial of privatisation came late so it could be questioned: the obvious response being that if you did not intend to privatise Medicare why didn’t you say so on day one of the election campaign? — why wait until you were forced to respond to Labor’s Medicare campaign? And if you only responded when forced to, can your decision really be trusted? If you are supporting Medicare, why is there a freeze on rebates for six years which is five years and five months longer than Labor’s original freeze? Why are you going to force pathologists and diagnostic imaging services to charge patients upfront and then have the patients claim a proportionally reduced rebate from Medicare?

They are questions that Turnbull just refused to address when Labor raised them. So it wasn’t simply a ‘privatisation’ scare campaign by Labor but a campaign that raised legitimate questions about Turnbull’s and the Coalition’s approach to Medicare. For Turnbull to come out and claim that Labor improved their vote because of a lie about privatisation is missing the point and is itself a lie because he will not face the truth that his other actions were still a threat to Medicare. People could see that and did believe that Medicare was worth saving.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.


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Comments (11) -

  • Florence nee Fedup

    7/6/2016 10:37:03 AM |

    Neither believes they are lying. The coalition see Medicare as a safety net for the poor. This is incorrect. Medicare is a universal scheme that is underpinned by bulk billing. Cuts that Coalition have  already made detract from that. Medicare will only exist in name only. It Is not a grotesque lie by Shorten,  Turnbull is about semantics, not the undermining process of Medicare.

    It is a fact, as the doctors are still pointing out, Medicae is at risk,

  • Ken

    7/6/2016 11:45:17 AM |

    thanks Florence

    Yes, Medicare is meant to be a 'universal health insurance' and the more one earns the more one pays because the Medicare levy is a percentage of income -- that is equitable.  But not according to the Liberals!  I also agree that Turnbull is all about semantics.  He picks his words very carefully.  As I said in my previous article he usually avoids outright lies but also avoids the truth -- or as I say in this piece, he and the Liberals lie by omission.

  • Ross

    7/6/2016 12:45:30 PM |

    I think it's a bit rich for the bedwetters in the coalition to cry rivers of crocodile tears because labor "lied".
    Pot, kettle, black anyone? The ability to look you in the eye and lie strait out is what politicians are good at, some would say the only thing politicians are good at. And the coalition are the absolute champions in this field.
    As has been pointed out scare campaigns only work if there is kernel of truth in it. The Liberals outsourced their policy making to the extreme right wing fruit bats of the IPA. Surprise, surprise the IPA advocate privatising Medicare. You could not see those fruit bats changing their stated aims even in the face of the fact that touching Medicare is a short walk to political suicide. Howard had control of both houses at one stage, no doubt he would have thought about it but even at the height of his power he rejected that idea as far too dangerous.

    Will we see the next federal government shower Medicare with all the love and attention the public obviously expects? The minister for Medicare and a seat at the big table at the very least.

    He's an enjoyable thought. If Malcolm forms a government, will he send Tony to bargain with Pauline?
    Did Malcolm create a slush fund to destroy Pauline? No. Tony did.
    Did Malcolm use that slush fund to get Pauline sent to jail? No. Tony did.
    Do you think Pauline will enjoy bargaining with Tony? Absolutely.

    Buddha said, your actions of today will almost certainly come back and bite you on the arse tomorrow, it's called Karma and it's a wonderful thing.

  • Ria Young

    7/7/2016 12:48:38 AM |

    Medicare is an insurance scheme, funded by an extra percentage on your tax return, collected by the ATO. Medicare is also a scheme to provide a rebate for the doctors who bulk bill, or for patients who pay the doctor whatever they charge and then ckaim the rebate from Medicare ( now part of
    Centrelink.)  It does not provide medical services. Privatise the payment system of Medicare, then Medicare is privatised. There is nothing else for it to do.

  • Casablanca

    7/7/2016 3:06:24 AM |

    How the federal government is destroying the evidence. Jenna Price
       The Department of Health has now cut funding to the one organisation in all of Australia which really examines how GPs work and what they do. The Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health program (BEACH), run out of the University of Sydney, mysteriously had all its funding disappear from June 30 this year. Staff members were warned in November last year that there may be changes but no inkling that all the money would go. My view is that this is punishment for the work BEACH did to expose the lies in the National Commission of Audit.

    www.smh.com.au/.../...vidence-20160516-gowdve.html

  • Rick

    7/7/2016 3:29:31 AM |

    The facts are this Liberal party is the worst weve ever had. EVER
    Their supporters are stupid, stubborn, blind, ignorant, or rich.
    They are dishonest, they are not for the people, look at their policies, track record in the 3yrs theyve been in?
    The MSM are in league with the Coalition, television, print, digital, social all supported an OBVIOUS narrative that had zero basis of analysis.
    Australia needs MORE governing laws of politics, FIRSTLY we need a NATIONAL ICAC
    BANKS CORPORATIONS have complete hold over our country and our government is facilitators of the globalist agenda. The MSM keeps everyone distracted.

    This can be determined by the huge dividision between politicians and absense of constant engagement with the public.

    Democracy, government, needs to change significantly, we need progressive leaders analysts, real public servants not lying mouth pieces like this LNP.

    No political party or leader should be immune from the law.

    Come on theres so much wrong with this current government and we all know it. Thats because theres no rules, no consequences. That needs to change

      

  • Ken

    7/7/2016 9:59:38 AM |

    Ria, you are right and that is the key point.  Making payments is the main role of Medicare and outsourcing the payments would effectively be privatising Medicare.  So even for the Liberals to claim that they would only have outsourced the 'back office' operations of Medicare and that this would not be privatisation is also a lie.

  • TalkTurkey

    7/7/2016 10:11:30 AM |

    Comrades All,
    1. I spilt Cooper's Ale (only a dessertspoonful max) into my computer and it died of ecstasy. So I've been incommunicado until a few days ago when -
    2. I got a new one, touch screen & all. I wrote half a reply to you Ken last night and did my usual trick - touched something and it disappeared! Bum! Where does it go? How do I retrieve it? What is it that makes it disappear? Surely it's still somewhere in cyberspace ?
    3. Anyway Ken, yes I agree of course, it's in the DNA of the Right to obfuscate fabricate misrepresent belittle exaggerate victimise or use every possible ruse from character assassination to false equivalence. They lie as a matter of first course. Yep. Menzies lied about the Petrovs to scare Australians into voting for him. Howard & Reith lied about Children Overboard. Abbortt lied about No Cuts To Education et al. And they lied ad nauseam about *J*U*L*I*A* having lied about No Carbon Tax .. But just try to explain that to Joe Sandwich!
    So now  here's Turdball lying about Labor's Great Big Mediscare Lie. It's not a lie of course, and Turdy ain't got the grunt to make it stick, and he's like a nasty little boy about it. Well GOOD!
    Anyway it looks like he'll be able to cobble together a ragbag Government, we're all agog with bated breath waiting for the fun.
    I'd say more but I'm scared I'll touch the TPS Post-Eating Monster button so I'm'a post this NOW.

  • Ken

    7/7/2016 2:23:12 PM |

    TT

    Glad you didn't waste more of the Cooper's Ale -- I assume the rest found your mouth.

    You are right of course that the Liberals are the masters of obfuscation even if not outright lies.   Howard was protected during the 'children overboard' affair: even though some of his staffers already knew the truth they kept it from Howard so he could 'honestly' pursue it and 'honestly' deny that he had already been told.  With such subterfuges the Liberals govern!!!!

  • DisablednDesperate

    7/7/2016 3:06:13 PM |

    I keep hearing that 2 dollar figure but in real life its a lot more. Even on a pension my GP who I have to see once a month upped the cost to me to $33. That was the gap. From the 1st of July it went to  $42. I can't easily change GPs due to an authority from the Govt. THAT is the real world implication of their decisions.

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