The Australian Financial Review of 27 June 2014, as is usual in the Friday edition, included many interesting articles. The ‘CommBank Covered up
Scandal’, the first item on the front page, shared space with ‘Land of the Rich: Australia’s Record 39 Billionaires’. Both articles headlined the detail to follow. Only one other item managed to score front page space: a small corner trumpeted ‘Palmer’s Climate Plan in Doubt’. Surprised? – we know the Prime Minister, along with many on his cabinet not longer have much faith in science.
Given that the most powerful political figures have such little confidence in science, there is not much wonder that they don’t have any faith in the medical profession either. The frequently ill in Australia apparently do go to the doctor very often; 11 visits a year according to the Commissioner of Audit in his pre-budget audit for the Treasurer. Such frequent visits indicated to the government that many people were rorting the Medicare system. All these visits identified by the Chairman (sic) Tony Shepherd, suggested a good idea to the Treasurer. Everyone going to the doctor, even the most disadvantaged, should pay a fee of $7 for each visit to the doctor with $5 dollars of this extra payment to be treated as a donation to establish a Medical Research fund, but not to be used until it was the largest fund of its kind.
Thus we see in Australia the disadvantaged being called upon to fill a gap in the philanthropic spirit of the most wealthy, and most greedy, and indeed of the well to do, as almost half of those earning $1,000,000 or more claimed no tax deduction for charitable contributions in 2011/12. I did not have the discipline to read through the detail of the philanthropic donations of the 200 hundred richest, but I did scan through their names. I did not notice the Smorgan family in the 200 richest in Australia, although in Melbourne the Cancer Hospital in East Melbourne honours the donations of the Smorgan Family with the Smorgan Family wing. I did notice Greg Poche’s generous and continuing donations to charity mentioned in the Rich List. And to be fair there were other wealthy people who donated to research.
For a prosperous Australia and a fair society, the provision of health, education and welfare services are essential. The severe cuts in the federal budget, including cuts to medical research and indeed to the CSIRO, whose research has benefitted so much of Australian development has to be of major concern. This is a gap that is unlikely to be filled by private donations.
What a sad state of affairs it is that the sick and poor are being required to pay for a medical research fund, that few will survive long enough to gain from what may be aptly named the Joe Hockey Medical Research Fund.