The political momentum of the Greens shows no sign of a rallentando. Carbon tax, mining tax and gagging of free speech have been achieved. Gay marriage, euthanasia, and repression of independent school curricula seem only moments away.
Health is consistently a major political battleground; governments can be made or destroyed on Medicare and hospital policy. Governments of all persuasions have redefined the doctor–patient relationship into a triangle of doctor–government–patient.
So an examination of the health policies and philosophies of the Greens is both urgent and prudent. Predictably, there is a Far Left tendency towards making the government do everything, including telling people how to run their lives and supposedly thus stay healthy. Philosophically, as in Greens policies at large, hypocrisies of the environment versus the human ego are evident. Naivety and poor insight into how the health system actually operates are the other outstanding features of their health manifestos.
The Greens want us to recalibrate the way we think about health into a mindset of rights rather than one of self-reliance and self-improvement. Such a mentality is also central to the rest of their piecemeal, populist, pseudo-philosophical agenda. They define quality health care and free, universal delivery of health services as rights.
When one usually defines rights, one thinks of genuine rights, such as the rights to life, to freedom of expression, to religious belief, to vote, and to carry out one’s life peacefully. Real rights are focused on the individual’s ability to go about life as one sees fit. By respecting others’ rights of a similar nature, it is possible to have a society of some diversity and at the same time peaceful. One would think that peace and diversity would resonate with the Greens, but instead we find the contrary.
For those most in need, such as the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the sick and the dying, rights become more complex in that the individual is defenceless and helpless. In these instances, rights require the demos to work out a way to help. This does not have to mean government must take over and brush aside private effort by way of legislation or provision of social services, even in a democracy.
Whilst some may dispute that universal access to quality health care is an essential component of modern government, most would concur that it is a high ideal that should be pursued. In a wealthy nation like ours, providing as much as we can for “free” (whatever this is supposed to mean, given most of us pay tax) is something to strive for, but should never be redefined as a right.
If the Greens succeed in redefining rights, then it will necessitate a government takeover of the entire health system, public and private, as that would be the only way our rights can be protected and delivered under the new paradigm. Note that under this new world order of the Greens, rights become something deliverable, not intrinsic as they should be.
If the Greens had their way, we would be forced to accept what the government dishes out, without any choice. Most disturbingly, in the areas of obstetrics and palliative care, the government monopoly over the health system that is our “right” would force doctors, nurses and patients to accept abortion and euthanasia according to the protocols of the day. Our health rights would cease to be individual; instead they would be determined by the state health corporation.
Our “rights” would also amount to having access to drugs only through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS is ultimately controlled by the Minister for Health, with politics being a greater power than science. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) is a group of bureaucrats, scientists and medical doctors who advise the minister on additions and withdrawals from the PBS pharmacopoeia. In recent years ministers have over-ruled the PBAC for reasons that can only be political. Under a Greens health system, it is likely that the PBS will have a monopoly over drug distribution in Australia, so the option to procure drugs privately will be lost, with the obvious adverse outcomes as a consequence. To save face for the minister, it is likely that appointments to the PBAC will become politicised in order for the PBAC’s decisions to reflect the political imperatives du jour.
Government-imposed restrictions will almost certainly also apply to the ordering of pathology tests, medical imaging (such as x-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds) and the availability of surgical interventions. And the regulation will not stop at the doors of pharmacies, surgeries and hospitals, for we can expect the advertising of food to be restricted to ways that the Greens approve.
With the monopoly will come the rationing of services through budgets and restrictive work practices. Government-run clinics will have patient quotas, set opening times and be staffed by salaried health professionals who will have no incentive to provide efficiency. The problems associated with this model are already glaringly apparent in many hospital-based medical specialties, where salaried doctors see fewer patients than their colleagues in private practice. Why see thirty patients per day, when you get the same salary for seeing three?
A move to a fully nationalised health system as prescribed by the Greens would result in all the inefficiencies of the public hospital system overflowing into our community-based general practices and specialist practices. Waiting times will blow out, patients will become frustrated, and there will be no private option to provide a way out. In countries with more nationalised health systems than ours, patients have cross-border escape-valves, permitting them to access top quality care privately: Canadian patients drift to the USA, for example. Where are Australian patients to go if our private system is shut down by a fully nationalised health system?
The private health system in Australia is one of the reasons why our overall health system is so strong. The private system takes the pressure off the public system, which is by its very nature a rationed system due to budgetary constraints. The market system that rules the private system leads to efficiency and competition, which result in innovation and shorter waiting times. Because health professionals can earn excellent incomes in the private system, it allows many of them to share their time between public and private systems, so both needy and wealthy receive the benefits of their skills and knowledge. Under a Greens nationalised monopoly health system, the private system would disappear because it clashes with the philosophy of free universal access.
Under the Greens policy, it is axiomatic that a governmental health administrator is honest and never self-serving, whilst the employee of a pharmaceutical company is always dishonest and greedy. The scandals engulfing the ALP’s Craig Thomson and the Health Services Union are a timely warning of what may await us.
The Greens are obsessed with free universal dental care. This too will become one of the “rights” of the population. A DentiCare system along the lines of Medicare, or at least dentists joining Medicare to allow bulk-billed dental consultations, is one of the major ambitions of Greens health policy. Whilst it sounds nice, it is un-costed and fails to acknowledge the most basic problem of all, namely that most dentists have absolutely no interest in participating in such a scheme. In fact one of the reasons why many talented young adults choose dentistry over medicine at university is so they do not have to work under Medicare! Whilst medical graduates work for $25 to $35 an hour in public hospitals in their first few years after graduation, dental graduates at the same level can already be earning $300,000 a year in private practice. So let’s not hold our breaths waiting for legions of dentists to join DentiCare; we’re better off saving for our dentures in the same way we save up for our funeral plans.
The only logical conclusion one can therefore arrive at is that by mischievously having us believe in rights to free medical and dental care, the Greens want us to surrender our rights to choice and self-determination. In many ways what the Greens propose appears democratic, but in fact it leads to the exact opposite.
The Greens effectively have to please two types of people to get votes, namely the hard Left and the “doctors’ wives”, the latter being the term coined to describe the educated, comfortable voters who want to feel good about voting for a party that does nice things. Lenin’s term “useful idiots” also comes to mind.
This has led to two versions of Greens policy. The doctors’ wives policies are those paraded in advertising campaigns, press releases and ten-second sound-bites on the internet, television and radio. The comfortable, carefree and apathetic absorb the Green facade messages and vote Green. No research or critical thinking occurs here.
The detailed policies—and the devil is truly in these details—are drawn up by and for the hard Left. Here we see the detailed, radical social policies that are anti-human, anti-religion, anti-tradition, anti-family, revolutionary and directed towards total governmental control of our lives.
Internal conflicts and contradictions in the philosophy of the Greens are evident when comparing policies to do with humans and animals. On the one hand, the Greens oppose genetic modification and scientific testing on animals, labelling such testing as cruel and unethical. But on the other hand, they are all in favour of genetic manipulation of human stem cells, euthanasia, and promotion of all types of abortion.
When it came to the Victorian parliament permitting abortion on demand, at any stage of pregnancy, without pain relief for the foetus, and without a doctor’s right to object on the grounds of conscience, not one Green member opposed the legislation. The Victorian legislation remains the most antagonistic in the world with respect to taking away the rights of doctors to make decisions based on faith and conscience. An extension of this denial of freedom will undoubtedly be extended to other ethically sensitive matters if the current balance of political power remains in place in Australia.
If someone were to suggest a beached dolphin be put down for humane reasons, the Greens would be willing to spend millions (of taxpayers’ dollars) to return it to its family. When the Japanese or Norwegians kill a few whales because they happen to like eating this mammal, the Greens carry on as if it were genocide. We did not hear a peep from the Greens about the genocide and atrocities in Southern Sudan before that country’s secession.
So whilst old ladies lie in public hospital beds with hip fractures awaiting surgery, the Greens will be spending money on whales and other creatures, and at the same time promoting euthanasia to be freely available on demand with negligible safeguards. What is in effect legalised assisted suicide and murder will further push doctors into major ethical dilemmas. The economically draining elderly and disabled will be liquidated in order to free up funds for saving animals, abortions and allowing assisted reproduction for those deemed suitable.
It’s social engineering by stealth. Imagine if Stalin and Hitler had had access to this technology and health bureaucracy.
If the Greens are to be believed, we should all eat organic foods that are not genetically modified, grown by farmers who worship the environment. The pharmaceutical and chemical companies should keep their wares away from our sources of food. Grazing should be as natural as possible, letting nature rule the process. However, when it comes to human reproduction, the right to contraceptives, genetic technology and sophisticated procedures, all made by pharmaceutical and chemical companies, is fine, perhaps even noble. Of course this is to satisfy our “rights” to whatever form of reproduction we want, even if not bestowed on us by nature.
The fact that modern farming practices have led to a great reduction in famine appears lost on the Greens. Famine is somehow not an health outcome of significance in the setting of modern agricultural practice. However, if the famine is caused by “climate change”, then of course it is central to Greens health policy; it may even warrant the invention of a new tax!
A glance at the Greens website reveals that the Greens believe that:
• health is determined by biological, psychological and social factors
• prevention is a key to good health
• we need a skilled, well-resourced health workforce
• rural, remote and indigenous communities need more money spent on them
• accurate food labelling is important
These breathtaking motherhood statements are somehow meant to be swallowed by the public as some Columbian discovery. Surely someone in the Greens must have read or heard somewhere that the medical profession and governments of all persuasions have been working towards these goals for generations?
Perhaps governments and the health professions would have more time to dedicate to these ambitions if they were not distracted endlessly by the games of the Greens.
This is a revised and extended version of a chapter from The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences, edited by Andrew McIntyre and published by Connor Court last year. Dr Aniello Iannuzzi is a family physician who practises in rural New South Wales.