AS a budgetary Trojan horse, the medical research future fund always risked falling apart before the Abbott government could get it through the gates.
Recent changes in the Coalition’s rhetoric about the fund, and about Medicare itself, confirm it was little more than a poorly constructed afterthought designed to allay concerns about the budget’s underlying changes in health funding.
Instead of making the real argument about sustainability, Joe Hockey, with Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton, made ham-fisted claims about research delivering savings.
The real savings are the multi-billion-dollar ones to be realised only after the fund reaches its $20 billion target in 2020 (or sooner, if hardliners convince cabinet to abandon the ruse).
No sooner had the fund been announced than top researchers — including Gustav Nossall, to whom the Treasurer paid tribute in his budget speech — asked why the government would support medical research and not other science. The fund was dividing the nation’s thinkers.
Others were sceptical for other reasons, believing the government would either cut other research contributions or, by promoting the $1bn outlays from the proposed fund, dissuade philanthropy. And consumers were being asked to listen to the budget with their hearts — and support Alzheimer’s and cancer research — rather than let their brains do the sums.
Now, bungled negotiations over an unpopular co-payment see the government clinging to this makeshift fund, trying to promote its benefits rather than deal with the reality of slashed Medicare rebates, reduced public-hospital funding and abandoned preventive health programs.
The Australian Medical Association’s self-serving co-payment alternative only draws more attention to the scale of the proposed budget cuts. And the Coalition’s claim, that the fund should have been set up by Labor anyway, reeks of desperation.
This Trojan horse looks like a donkey and is still creaking under the pressure of political spin and economic rough-housing.
The government is doing more damage trying to keep it upright, It should just deal with the mess.
Source: The Australian