I mused the other day about the fact that the large increase in Australia’s newly-discovered projected consolidated revenue surplus, along with Howard’s cynical spending promises in its wake, created a real opportunity for Mark Latham to “promise some really meaningful major reforms in tertiary education, health, industry policy or public infrastructure.”
So what has he actually done? Spent $2.9 billion on non-means tested free hospital care for old codgers over 75 years of age, and a grandparenting allowance of $20 a week per child for codgers providing primary care. (read the campaign launch speech here). What a goose! The Medicare Gold scheme wastes $2.9 billion of taxpayers’ funds on an economically regressive, socially wasteful program that probably won’t be sustainable in the long term anyway given intergenerational changes over the next couple of decades. The grandparenting allowance might make more sense, depending on the definition of “primary care”. But Labor’s got Buckley’s of persuading codgers to desert the Tories in big numbers anyway, however much Latham tries to bribe them.
This was a heaven-sent chance for Labor to implement major social and economic reforms that could have made a real positive difference to Australia’s future. Instead, like John Howard, Latham has squandered billions of taxpayers’ dollars on cynical and probably futile vote-buying bribes. If that’s the best he can do, Labor deserves to lose.
Update – Professor Bunyip shares my view (which will probably be enough for most lefties to dismiss it out of hand). However, the RWDB echo chamber brigade aren’t saying anything much, probably because Howard hasn’t distributed their hymn sheets yet. Howard himself has been remarkably reticent in his response to Medicare Gold, no doubt realising that dissing the codgers is a bad political move even in relation to a policy proposal as stupid as this one.