Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

The dangers of the sell-off

[This article was was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, January 2017.]

 

A new year has begun but not much has changed apart from the date on the calendar.

In Australia, that faraway land that has the reputation of a kind of paradise according to some people here in Catalonia, the national government is up to its usual dirty tricks. 

Someone working at the public's expense recently discovered a sixty six year-old grandfather named Mark Rogers who the government solicitor is threatening with legal action if he doesn't close down a website he runs.

His alleged crime? 

Not corruption, child-pornography or even defrauding bank customers. Rogers, volunteering his own time, dares to host “savemedicare.org” in an attempt to keep the Australian health system in public hands. 

The ultra-conservative Turnbull government down-under has told “Grandpa Mark” that he has broken copyright law through 'misleading or deceptive' use of the Medicare “brand” logo.

The fact that Medicare exists not as a brand but as a taxpayer-funded organisation which is responsible for allocating resources to hospitals has been ignored by the Aussie media. 

What they have rightly pointed out though is that the government is falsely using the law to intimidate a critic of their policy of selling off Medicare to corporations with big profits from sickness as their sole motive. 

Rogers aim is simply to keep the universal health system for all and to publicise the myths that right-wingers in Australia are spreading about Medicare being supposedly 'unaffordable.'

Meanwhile back on this half of the globe, in a progressive move the Slovenian parliament has adopted a constitutional amendment that declares their country's abundant clean water supplies are 'a public good managed by the state' and 'not a market commodity.'

Strangely though, the same centre-left government is planning to employ private security firms to help “manage the flow of thousands of migrants and refugees” travelling through the country toward northern Europe.

If contracting out police work seems a reasonable idea, I would urge you to read British journalist Polly Toynbee's wonderful book about life for the low-paid (titled “Hard Work.”) She spent time in various jobs where, amongst many other shocking discoveries, she found that all across their National Health Service, private agencies were originally used to solve short term staffing but quickly became dependent on them.

The agencies were quick to realise this relationship of dependency so colluded to keep pushing up their fees without paying staff any more than sub-living wage rates. As a result, public service 'managers' were completely unable to manage their teams because they were all being directly employed by companies outside the system.

This has been a business arrangement that only benefitted the companies. And it has now been true for a decade and a half, leaving taxpayers as well as the government and these low-paid workers trapped without a trace of value for money - the exact thing that privatisation is supposed to be so good for.