After following politics and elections for over 60 years, it is quite extraordinary to see the Liberal party complaining about the Medicare scare campaign. In a downcast and confusing speech on election night Malcolm Turnbull spoke of the ‘well funded lie campaign on Medicare.’
In fact, I think the ALP is right on the threat to Medicare, although I would have used different arguments.
Promoting fear and scare campaigns has been the stock in trade of conservatives in Australia for decades. They have developed it as an art form. The most memorable scare campaign I can remember was in the late 1950s with conservatives promoting fear about the communism and from Communist China in particular. Advertising drew pictures of large arrows depicting the downward thrust of Communism towards Australia.. To top it off this scare campaign depicted hundreds of Chinese rolling across Sydney Harbour Bridge in their rickshaws with guns and communist flags.
The fear of Communism was promoted for decades. The Labor party and the trade unions were the focus on this anti-communist scare campaign.
Conservatives now focus that external threat on refugees and Muslims. Scott Morrison encouraged the Parliamentary Liberal party to be more aggressive in promoting the scare campaign against Muslims.
He told us that boat people were another threat because they were bringing diseases to Australia. That fear of refugees and boat people was exploited first by John Howard and Philip Ruddock who told us that refugees were so inhuman and violent that they would even throw their children overboard.
The Howard government, along with the US and the UK, joined in the Invasion of Iraq which made us more vulnerable to domestic terrorism. But as always that was an opportunity for a renewed scare campaign about terrorists and of course, Muslims.
But the most recent infamy in scare campaigns was conducted by Tony Abbott. The carbon tax was going to wreck the Australian economy. Whyalla was to be wiped off the map and a leg of lamp would cost $100.
We had a scare campaign about budget deficits and government debt, but in government Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey forgot all about it.
Liberal backbenchers created a scare campaign about ‘safe schools’.
We were warned that Labor’s proposals on negative gearing would wreck the property market.
We were later told to fear a Labor/Green alliance as a ‘caravan of chaos’.
The Liberals have run one scare campaign after another, but now they are hoist with their own petard over Medicare.
It is quite delicious to see the Coalition complaining about a scare campaign. But it is not clear how effective it was in shifting votes The opinion polls showed very little movement throughout the eight week campaign. The opinion polls also accurately reflected the final vote. It might be argued that Mediscare slowed a movement back to the government in the last couple of weeks, but the opinion polls don’t show it.The coalition’s problems were elsewhere-failed leadership and a vacuous ‘plan for jobs and growth’.
The Liberal party has been hostile to Medicare since its introduction by the Whitlam government in 1974. The Fraser government tried to cripple it. It was restored by the Hawke government. Since then, the Liberals have known there was popular support for Medicare but did their best to undermine it from within. They are doing this with a $11 billion p.a. subsidy to private health insurance. Warren Buffet in the US called PHI the tape-worm in the US health system. The same is true in Australia with government supported subsidies to PHI. Tony Abbott told us repeatedly that PHI was in the Coalition’s DNA The Medicare shell may remain but the Coalition is supporting the eating out from within.
I would have used different arguments about the threat to Medicare, but in my view Bill Shorten is correct to say that Medicare is under threat.
Conservatives have set the pattern and gold standard in scare campaigns for decades. It is quite delicious to see them complaining.
Hoist with their own petard.!.
Source: John Menadue’s Blog Menadue is a former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1974 to 1976, serving both Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. He is a former ambassador to Japan and served as CEO Of Qantas Airways. Reproduced with permission of the author.
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