Unions challenge threat to Medicare


Unions NSW has endorsed a “Stop Abbott: Save Medicare” rally planned for February 15, 1pm, at Town Hall Square.

Mark Lennon, secretary of Unions NSW, will speak at the action with representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and the Health Services Union.

Other speakers will include members of the Doctors Reform Society, Aboriginal and pensioner organisations, and political parties. The main rally demands are: no fees for GPs, free and fully funded health care, and no privatisation or cuts.

The rally follows earlier events in January around the country. It is part of a growing campaign to defend Medicare against proposed attacks on the national health system by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Coalition state governments.

This follows a submission to the federal government's big business-dominated Commission of Audit to introduce a $6 co-payment for visits to GPs, which would hit working people hardest and discourage early consultations with doctors.

Health minister Peter Dutton has foreshadowed more cuts to health spending, citing a so-called blowout in government health costs over recent years. Dutton had previously warned he wants to overhaul Medicare, because “spiralling costs” would make the system "unmanageable".

There are some signs that the widespread public anger at the latest plans to attack Medicare is having an effect. Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop said the government had "no plan for co-payments," and accused Labor of "scaremongering."

Liberal candidate for the upcoming Griffith federal by-election in Brisbane, former Australian Medical Association (AMA) head Dr Bill Glasson, has backed off from his earlier support for the co-payment proposal.

However, building the campaign to defend Medicare as a universal, public national healthcare system is essential to help combat the Abbott government's escalating attacks on the public sector and social welfare.