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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Tides and rocks « Previous | |Next »
November 25, 2003

I see that the Senate is using its constitutional powers to flex its muscle. It has overturned the federal government's move to cut thousands of islands in northern Australia from the migration zone. More here.

Now it confronts the need to improve Tony Abbott's Medicare and Brendan Nelson's Higher Education legislation now lying before it. Both Abbott and Nelson are possible competitors for Liberal leadership and they strut their stuff as can do men who have what it takes.

The MedicarePlus package will be passed. It was designed as a political fix to neutralise an electoral problem of being seen as tough and mean and so stem the leakage of crucial votes from the Coalition. Howard deliberately squeezed the GPs hard by refusing to adjust the schedule fee for a visit so that it was in line with the rising costs of running a medical practice. This strategy was designed to lead to the eventual demise of bulk-billing. But the doctors rebelled. Howard backtracked from killing off Medicare.

Most of the changes proposed by Tony Abbott are being implemented through regulation. It is the safety net bit that has to pass through the Senate and what Senator can stand against, or oppose, a safety net? The tide of public opinion will sweep MedicarePlus through, even though Abbott's extra $5-a-pop incentive payment will help preserve bulk-billing for cardholders and children, but do nothing to halt its decline for everyone else.

The question is: can the Senate create enough wriggle room on the safety net bit to broaden the safety net so that there is enough money to ensure universal bulkbilling? The card game on this boat is not over.

The Higher Education legislation is another matter. Its passage through the Senate will come up against the rocks known as the Independents. Brendan Nelson's boat is not travelling well. It is taking on water from leaks rather than from heavy seas.

Admittedly, Nelson's boat is weighed down from carrying Abbott's deadweight. Abbott successfully inserted into Nelson's reform package the proviso that $400 million in funding is dependent on universities accepting tough industrial relations regulations that would minimise the role of unions and strip back industrial conditions in tertiary institutions that exceed community standards.

And Nelson has shifted ground by reducing the amount of intrusive regulation to be imposed on the universities. But he has lost the Vice-Chancellors. Around May they were supportive even if somewhat divided, since they wanted deregulation to increase their cash flow. These days they are pressing the Government to compromise.

To compromise to meet their demands (eg., roll back the prescriptive industrial relations demands & cut the the link between funding and workplace change) and to satisfy the 4 independent senators--- the Australian Progressive Alliance's Meg Lees, One Nation's Len Harris, and independents Brian Harradine and Shayne Murphy from Tasmania.

In this interview on the ABC's Lateline program Senator Lees said that she and the Senate's other independents have found some common ground in their opinions on the proposed education reforms, and that they intend to push for $1.5 billion in additional funding.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:02 AM | | Comments (2)


Interesting that headkicker Abbot has produced an actual compromise (although maintianing Medicare's universality would be btter) whie the warm and fuzzy Nelson has produced a horror show backed up by incredibly coarse propaganda.

I did look for some comments I'd seen where Nelson had made a link between his legislation and international terrorism!

I could not find it.

I also saw a bit of a clip of him in Parliament raving about mickey mouse courses in the humanities. he wantsw to control them..

Yet he also wants the universities to act as a business in a market.