Protestors took to the streets around Australia on February 20 against the federal government's proposed cuts to health care in #TheseCutsAreKillingUs rallies.
Protesters in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth came out to defend Medicare and to oppose government plans to charge for previously free pathology tests. This could lead to doctors having to charge at least $30 for blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, pap smears, urine tests, ultrasounds and more.
The federal government is talking about privatising the delivery of Medicare rebates. The privatisation of public service delivery will mean taxpayer money going into the pockets of private providers.
The new attacks on public health follow former PM Tony Abbott's failed attempts to introduce a GP co-payment.
In Sydney, Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten was one of the speakers. A small way into his speech, rallygoers began chanting "Let them stay", referring to the 267 refugees, including children and babies, that Labor supports being deported to Nauru. He kept talking, then stopped, and then said he was only going to speak about the cuts to Medicare — but the crowd kept chanting.
Other speakers included Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Judith Kiejda, general secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Commonwealth Public Sector Union and Dr Barri Phatarfod from Doctors4Refugees, who demanded that Medicare be defended from further spending cuts.
All cited the appalling US health system as an example of where Australia must not end up.
Kiejda told the crowd: "Big business has the ear of this government every single day. You do not have this access — your voice is only heard when you come to rallies like today.
“NSW nurses and midwives will continue to fight for Medicare to remain as a universal system providing quality healthcare for every Australian, as it was originally intended. When they attack Medicare we have to stand up and fight back.”
Aboriginal leader Ken Canning also addressed the crowd. "These cuts will affect the poorest people in this country the most. Who are the poorest people in this county? The Aboriginal people. This is effectively a death sentence for Aboriginal people.”