It is no exaggeration to say that the increased involvement of government in the last few decades in general medical practice, public hospitals and universities has been a disaster. Even in areas traditionally the role of government, for example law and order, there has been a serious decline.
In all cases the increased costs to the taxpayer have been enormous, the layers of bureaucracy burdensome and wasteful, and above all, the quality of service vastly inferior. With one exception, the relevant profession has been downgraded, impoverished and exploited. The exception has been the lawyers.
The other beneficiaries have been the politicians and the new style bureaucrats. Increasing their powers, the politicians have locked in the votes of a growing client class. The new bureaucrats have been enriched by the ludicrous proposition that they should be rewarded as if they had accepted the risks and challenges of the private sector.
Let us take one example of what can happen in these socialist redoubts. An incredulous public was recently informed that merchants whose bills have been unpaid for months by the NSW Greater Western Area Health Service, have stopped supplying meat, vegetables, drugs, bandages, morphine and other essentials to the hospitals, and that doctors are considering resigning over a lack of basic equipment. At the same time, at least 17 bureaucrats are each being paid up to $130,000 a year to do nothing because of some structural changes in the service. These changes were not recent; they were made four years ago.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the appalling conditions in public hospitals, convicts in Sydney have been provided with what has been described as a five star hospital. (In what would have astounded our Founding Fathers, the High Court found in 2007 that the Constitution guarantees convicts a right to vote, no matter what Parliament says and no matter what the situation was at Federation.)
Another example is in tertiary education. This has been converted into a federal command economy, notwithstanding the clear and wise intention of the Founding Fathers that universities were to be beyond the reach of central government, as they still are in the US. Is it just a coincidence that most of the world’s most successful universities just happen to be found there?
By cramming in more students, and imposing additional administrative duties, university teachers here are forced to cut corners and reduce research. In the meantime their real income has been significantly reduced. In the seventies a professor of science or engineering earned roughly the same salary as a district court judge. Now it is about one third of that. Brilliant young scientists and engineers will obviously think twice about an academic career, at least in Australia.
Having demonstrated their failure in almost everything they touch, our socialist reformers have now cast their eyes on the nation’s dentists. Just as a Bill of Rights is described as only one possible option in the current consultations which are of course designed to achieve precisely that result, another “option” recently announced is to socialise the practice of dentistry.
This will involve a new tax of 0.75%, so that a dual income family earning say $100,000 will pay $750 each year, substantially more than the insurance premiums they pay now. Experience will tell them to try to keep their private insurance going.
The president of the Australian Dental Association, Dr Neil Hewson, says that Denticare could nearly double the cost of dentistry. He asks why the government doesn’t just target the 35 per cent of the community who cannot afford proper dental care. The same question was asked about medical services in the seventies, although the percentage of those alleged to be outside of the system was significantly lower. (Most weren’t – the medical profession looked after them anyway.)
You may wonder why in such a rich country a staggering 35% today cannot afford dental services. I shall return to this on another occasion. Suffice to say that among the reasons for the growth of this class are failed ideology, power and votes. But we can be sure of one thing. Very little of the $10 billion Christmas handout was spent on dental services. (Yes it did boost retail spending in the quarter by a miniscule 0.8%. That will do next to nothing to keep jobs, apart from those of Mr Rudd and Mr Swan. And we will have to borrow from China to fund the increasing line of credit to pay for all the handouts.)
Technology aside, we had a superb medical and hospital system in Australia in the seventies. What we have today is a terrible bureaucratic mess, with our general practitioners, and hospital staff overworked and underpaid. Unfortunately the young do not know this.
The socialisation of dentistry will be a disaster, and even although they must know this, that will not stop our elites. They hope that eventually a new generation will not know better and will cling even more to the nanny state.
Let us hope another politician as courageous as Margaret Thatcher will one day reverse all of this.