Aged care should not be ‘user pays’

The “free market” fanatics at the Productivity Commission have done their dirty job once again with their newly released Caring For Older Australians report. It would be more honestly titled Throw The Oldies To The Wolves because it follows vicious cuts to disabilities pensions.

The outraged response of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association summed up the report’s main agenda: “This report abandons aged care as a community service and replaces it with a user-pays system funded by flogging the family home.

“Whether, as an older Australian, you will need aged care and how much comes down to luck of the draw and it should not cost the family home to pay for it.”

Given the corporate profits-first politics of the Labor federal government and the Liberal-National opposition, aged care will soon cease to be a community service if there isn’t strong community opposition.

It will die a death of a thousand cuts just like public education, public health, public transport and other critical public services that underpin a good society.

But what else can we expect from the Productivity Commission? It is a government-funded neoliberal body dedicated to depriving the majority from enjoying the tremendous social gains that should flow from the many advances in science and technology.

Every Productivity Commission report released argues “user pays” schemes, deregulation and privatisation are the only options. It pretends its arguments are not political or ideological — but they are.

Its aged care report says more than one million older Australians receive aged care services today, but by 2050 this number is expected to rise to 3.5 million. It says the cost of this care to the government will quadruple from today’s $11 billion a year.

The report says there is no option but to make aged care more “user pays”, privatised and deregulated. It says the aged will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for care, just take out loans. Who are they fooling?

The report calculates on us being terrified by the big numbers. But think about a few other big numbers.

Think about the Commonwealth Bank’s recently announced 12% rise in annual cash profit to $6.84 billion.

Think about the $254 billion in pre-tax profits made by the mining companies in Australia since 2004-5.

Think about the more than $2 trillion (in today’s dollars) that, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, has been shifted from wages to profits across Australia since 1974-75.

The money is there, but the Productivity Commission is out to make sure that more of it goes to making the filthy rich even richer — whatever the human cost.

The Productivity Commission core ethos is the idea at the heart of former British PM Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1987 statement in an interview with Woman’s Own magazine that there is “no such thing as society”.

Thatcher said: “I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’… and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women.”

The images of London burning that have flooded the news are a stark reminder of the impact of this “no such thing as society” mentality.

Out there in the mainstream media this corporate profit-first ideology is rarely shown for what it is. But not in Green Left Weekly.

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