Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Matters of Public Importance
Health and Education Funding
Sir Humphrey Appleby used to explain to the Prime Minister's private secretary the meanings of what the Prime Minister said as he went about the process of governing. It was, after all, from Yes, Prime Minister that we learnt the meaning of the expression 'courageous decision' and the mystery behind polling. I can imagine Bernard's confused expression when Sir Humphrey explained to him the meaning of Prime Minister Abbott's line 'Nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed and nothing is being planned.' It means, Sir Humphrey would have patiently explained, that the policy has been signed and sealed and is just awaiting the right time for delivery.
Of course, we are talking about the circulation of a document by the Prime Minister's department of a proposed green paper which the member for Warringah described during question time as a 'sensible debate'. In fact he was talking about cutting hospitals loose and cutting education loose.
In February 2014 the Prime Minister used that line to dismiss talk of a GP tax. He then announced a GP tax. He used similar lines before the election to dismiss talk of a cut to pensions. Now he has made a second attempt to cut pensions, this time to part pensioners, this time with the support of the Greens political party. He tried vainly to cut back on pensioners in the previous budget with a sneaky downward movement in the indexation of pensions. I am very proud to have heard the words of the member for Maribyrnong in his initial remarks that we fought this very successfully, we will fight the change on pensions and we will fight this green paper and its crazy ideas as well. The Prime Minister used the same sorts of words to pull the wool over people's eyes about health and education prior to the last election. Nine times before 2013 he repeated 'no cuts to health, no cuts to education'.
Of course universal access to health and education are, as the member for Lilley said, two of the Commonwealth's most important responsibilities and what distinguish Australia from some other advanced democracies. This government cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals in its first two budgets and is now looking to wash its hands of them altogether. According to the leaked green paper, the government is considering stripping more than $18 billion from hospitals every year. This shows that the $50 billion cut to health in last year's budget was just the beginning. I am an empiricist. I like to see the tables and add them up myself. The chart relating to hospital spending seems roughly to confirm these figures. It shows savings beginning in 2016-17, reaching about $5 billion a year in 2020-21 and rising to about $15 billion in 2024-25.
The leaked green paper from the Prime Minister's office, which he insisted at question time was a 'sensible debate', also canvasses the possibility, disgracefully, of this government walking away from funding preschools and kindergartens. If it did so, fees would rise by 70 per cent, putting unsustainable pressure on all the families that make use of child care, especially in that fourth year that they made such a big fuss about providing to people. Since Labor introduced federal funding for preschools and kindergartens, the proportion of children accessing 15 hours of early education has climbed from 23 per cent in 2009 to 82 per cent today. Mr Abbott's 'sensible debate' canvassed during question time would reverse this.
Sir Humphrey often told Prime Minister Hacker:
… although [what he had said] was indeed simple, clear and straightforward … the precise correlation between the information [he had] communicated and the facts … is such as to cause epistemological problems of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be requested to bear.
You told a lie.
The Australian people will see through the lies of this government. They will see this green paper for what it is. As the member for Lilley said so passionately just a minute ago, this government is characterised by social Darwinism and by trickle-down economics. The $80 billion cut proposed by this green paper would just confirm the reputation that this government already has.