Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist March 2016 Contents Australian Pharmacist March 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Malcolm Turnbull’s dream run appears to be coming to an end.
Last month, he completed his third
reshuffle in six months with experienced
ministers such as Andrew Robb retiring,
and a few accident-prone ministers
disappearing on (under?) an express bus
to the backbench.
Then there was Medicare. A front page
story in the West Australian newspaper
on 9 February raised the prospect of
Medicare being privatised.
Australians like their sacred cows and
they don’t have many left. Over the
past 30 years, many have been sent
to the abattoirs, carved up and sold
off to the private sector – Qantas,
the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and
more recently Medibank Private.
Australians also like their privacy.
In Question Time on 9 February, the
Prime Minister claimed the Government
was seeking to make it, ‘simpler and
faster for patients to be able to transact
with Medicare to get the services they
are entitled to.’
In a statement also released on
9 February, the recently reappointed
Health Minister, Sussan Ley said that
everyday Australians used cards to make
‘tap and go’ payments, and apps to make
payments, ‘and yet Medicare has not
kept up with these new technologies.
This is why the Department of Health
is investigating ways to digitise its
transaction technology for payments
to a more consumer-friendly and
That all sounds fair enough and a sensible
way to improve efficiency and service.
However, in Question Time on 10 February
the Prime Minster said: ‘Any outsourcing
would apply only to back-office
operations and the administrative actions
of making payments to individuals and
providers. It would not include setting
fees or rebates and it would not have any
impact on the cost of health care other
than that it may result in services being
delivered more efficiently.’
He missed the point. He mentioned
outsourcing and suddenly the private
sector would be getting access to
Australian’s health information.
Privacy was the issue.
It should be remembered that under
the Abbott and Turnbull Governments,
privacy has not been particularly
sacrosanct with rafts of legislation
removing privacy, in the name of
This was a huge free kick for the
Opposition which has been struggling
to get a word in since Malcolm Turnbull
became Prime Minister. Combined
with the flurry of resignations and
retirements of ministers and former
ministers, it gave Opposition Leader Bill
Shorten ammunition to paint Malcolm
Turnbull, the Government’s best political
asset, as the friendly face of the same
harsh government so unpopular when
led by Tony Abbott.
Take, for example, his speech to the NSW
Labor Party conference on 13 February.
Mr Shorten claimed the coalition
government was ‘melting away’, with ‘a
Prime Minister slowly sinking with them.’
‘Go through the alphabet’ he said: ‘Abbott,
Abetz, Andrews; Bishop, Billson, Briggs,
Brough, Hockey –and just yesterday, the
little-known but now infamous Stuart Robert.
‘ The Turnbull Liberals are falling apart at a
time of economic uncertainty. Behind the
platitudes and the 300-word slogans, this
Prime Minister says one thing – indeed he
says anything – and does another.
‘ That’s the real politics of today. There’s
nothing “agile” about cutting $50 billion
from hospitals. Nothing ‘nimble’ about
privatising Medicare,’ Mr Shorten said.
His message was – Malcolm Turnbull
might be a new friendly face but it is the
A more immediate issue for the
Government is that the opposition to
‘privatisation’ of Medicare has spread to
the cross benches.
Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus was
quick to jump, ‘Medicare is too important
to privatise,’ he said. ‘Call it whatever you
want, privatisation leads to work and
jobs being sent overseas. The people of
Australia do not want their hard earned
taxes being spent overseas on creating
jobs in Asia. They want their money spent
right here in Australia,’ he said.
Remember it is an election year and
perceptions are everything, so expect
more of this from all sides.
Shuffling the shine
BY ANDREW DANIELS
» CANBERRA COMMENTARY
Andrew Daniels is Managing Editor of Australian
Pharmacist. Opinions expressed in this column are
not necessarily those of the Pharmaceutical Society,
its Board or staff.
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