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PAWAN LUTHRA on how the Medicare campaign worked for Labor
It’s the economy, stupid.
That was the phrase Bill Clinton took, successfully, to the 1992 US polls against the incumbent George W Bush.
But for the 2016 Australian Federal elections, this should best be paraphrased to “It’s the hip pocket, stupid”.
We had both the Labor and Liberal parties setting out their agendas early on in the campaign. The Liberals were keen to call this election on the promise of a better future with better economic management and employment; Labor stuck to their core issues of health and employment. However, it is being claimed now, that it was the Labor attack on the potential changes to Medicare planned by the Liberals which actually got them the maximum traction. That the Liberals categorically denied they had any plans to tamper with Medicare, was not heeded by the voters, who were keen to maintain maximum benefit to their hip pockets.
The issue with most of us, is that we all want to have it all now, ie, this very moment. Over the years, Australians have got used to a number of benefits – unemployment, health based, aged care or family care. What was once considered an optional benefit has now become an entitlement. Any political party which tampers with any of these entitlements without just cause, will lose favour. And this is what happened in this election. The Coalition’s 2014 Budget with cuts to education funding, welfare etc. was still fresh in the mind of the voters, and with their normal distrust of politicians, did not have confidence in the Liberal Party’s assurances. Changes to Medicare would have hit everyone in their hip pocket and that is sacred territory.
The challenge is how to move the mindset of the voting public along. Healthcare, aged care and education expenditure is increasing year on year. The cost of new drugs and medical advances is increasing the cost of healthcare to the Commonwealth; with an aging population, the demands on the government for better aged care will only rise. Yet, on the revenue side, the government is not seeing growth at the same rate. Still trying to find its mojo post the mining boom, the pie is not growing; rather, with low inflation, it is stagnant. If the income does not increase, cuts need to be made and expenditure better managed. As to which part of expenditure can be cut without political hara kari is a challenge for both political parties.
Otherwise, it is not us but our children who will take on this debt, and see a lower quality of life than what we enjoy.
And a few random thoughts on this election. Yes, it was wonderful to see a larger number of Indian-origin candidates this time round. Though none of them fared well (with the exception of Alex Bathal of the Greens in Batman, Victoria), it was good to note the greater engagement in the political process.
And yes, Malcolm Turnbull did really fail to connect with the people. At Indian Link, we had prime minister aspirant Tony Abbott on the radio as well as newspaper, during the last elections in 2013. This time, even after repeated requests, Malcolm Turnbull was only available for an email interview. We politely declined.
But, on a rather memorable note, we found out on Indian Link Radio what Treasurer Scott Morrison’s favourite Indian snack is: sco-mo-sas.