"No GP Co-payment, Not Now, Not Ever! Hey Hockey, Hands Off Medicare!" was the theme of a rally organised by the Save Medicare Committee in Martin Place on October 23. More than 200 people attended the rally, which was followed by a march to state parliament.
Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), told the crowd: “The next stage of the [federal] government's attack on our public health system is the plan to sell off Medicare. The government wants to move the work from the public to the private sector."
Flood said 6000 jobs were at risk.
"We are determined to fight this move,” she said. “The community believes in Medicare; the government does not. We must unite to stop the sell-off of Medicare and the destruction of our public health services."
Rita Mallia, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) construction state president, said: "The CFMEU rejects the [federal] government's anti-worker agenda, to attack Medicare and public education.
"Building workers have come off the job here today to support this campaign. The CFMEU are with you 100%. We must maintain vital institutions like Medicare for future generations.”
State Labor opposition leader John Robertson said: "The [Tony] Abbott government has always hated Medicare as a universal, public healthcare system. Now the [Mike] Baird coalition government in NSW is allowing Abbott and [Joe] Hockey to do huge damage to our state health system.
"Baird and the Liberals voted down a Labor Party bill to ban any co-payment in NSW public hospitals. The hospitals will be under massive extra pressure if the $7 'health tax' goes ahead.
"Together we must send a clear message to Abbott and Baird that we will not stand by and allow Medicare to be destroyed.”
Greens MLC John Kaye said: "The Liberals and Nationals do not like public health, education or transport. The $7 GP co-payment is the first step toward a US-style, fully privatised health system.
"The Coalition parties don't care about working Australians. But, collectively, we can beat the Abbott and Baird governments.”
Stella Topaz, campaign director for aged care for the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NMWA), said: "Nurses and midwives understand the need for fair and equal access, and early intervention, in health care. A co-payment will delay essential access to health care.
"A co-payment will place greater administrative burdens on GPs and nursing homes. It will be a disincentive to timely access to proper health care.”
Tessa Boyd-Caine, deputy CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), which represents charities and community services across the country, said: "Poverty and deprivation affects over 2.5 million people in Australia. Many people are facing the prospect of having to choose food over health care costs.
"ACOSS is strongly opposed to the $7 co-payment and any further rise in existing health costs. The best solution to tackling increasing health expenditure is to establish a national preventive health framework.”
Jude Page, from the Public Health Association, said: "The introduction of the co-payment is the first step toward dismantling our public health system. The co-payment proposal is about ideology, not health costs."
Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said: "The trade union movement stands fully behind the public health system, for Medicare. A society is judged most on how it treats its most vulnerable people.
"Your campaign to defend Medicare has been very successful so far. That's why the co-payment plan is still blocked in the Senate.
"We must continue the campaign to save Medicare. As [former prime minister] Gough [Whitlam] would have said, 'Maintain the rage'."