Subscribe: Comments on Peter Martin: How out government treats our parliament with cont...
Preview: Comments on Peter Martin: How out government treats our parliament with cont...

Comments on Peter Martin: How out government treats our parliament with contempt, throwing out dollars like confetti along the way.

Updated: 2015-09-30T08:04:03.541+10:00


Well, I'm the person who sat with Kate Carnell in ...


Well, I'm the person who sat with Kate Carnell in her office at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and was the primary author of the paper that sank the original 'Australia Card' proposal.

This was before Kate was made Chief Minister of the ACT and was representing the pharmacists' national body. The legislation had already passed the lower house and was due to be debated in the Senate. I documented how the alleged $40m pa in pharmaceutical benefits system (PBS) fraud could be countered easily by software companies (supplying pharmacy software systems) could liaise with the Feds' Health Insurance Commission (HIC) to prevent use of out-of-date concession card numbers. Of course a large fraction of the alleged 'fraud' was pensioners who would never in the future become ineligible, but where the pharmacist had failed to update the concession number on file. The more real part of the fraud was unemployed people using 12-week concession cards after they had become employed again. I proposed that the HIC encode an expiry month and year into the concession card number, so the pharmacy software would know not to accept its use after it's expiry date. That would fix most fraud and only leave those who had found employment within the currency of their concession card... but if they were honest enough to have advised Centrelink as to their new employment status, they would not be the ones to fraudulently use the concession card after such advice. Those who failed to advise Centrelink might use the card fraudulently, but the government held no data indicating that the pharmacy should not accept its use (as those people had NOT advised their new employment status anyway). So, in short, we proved that the spending of $800m capital in 1980s-dollars of tax-payers money and 10% pa in on-going support of a system designed to defeat maybe $20m pa of 'real fraud' was a bad deal, especially when the private industry players were prepared to remove all the 'known' cases of fraud from the system at no cost to the government. That was the pharmacist's argument put to all the senators. However, at the same time, more information was coming out about lack of privacy protections and other 'Big Brother' aspects, so we simply gave the senators a reason to reject it.

Of course at that time, there were not the national security issues (terrorists within) that post-911 control freaks would argue outweigh all issues of fraud prevention.

Personally, I believe all Australians are rightfully skeptical of governments of either persuasion as these encroachments on private liberty are always well argued, but then become the thin wedge for far more 'control' options than most citizens would support. For example, everyone agrees with driver licences, and there has been an argument for linking licences to vehicle registrations (eg speed camera offences), but now with traffic cameras and e-tags combined, the total movements of the citizenry can be monitored at all locations and at all times. That could be useful if you were trying to prove you couldn't have been somewhere to do a murder, but it is far more likely to be used by governments in other ways... Similarly, an over-arching identity card quickly becomes the number tattooed on your forehead as more and more 'registrations' are made of your movements, transactions and meetings. It is something we need to be worried about, and no amount of advertising will convince people that it is only about 'government benefits', per Pete Costello's line.
Graeme (email is prof at-symbol

How much did they promise for cancer treatment las...


How much did they promise for cancer treatment last election and haven't spent yet? $29 million? Thats one good advertising campaign. Good to know our government has its priorities in order. Save Howard before cancer sufferers.

Could someone remind me, how much does the governm...


Could someone remind me, how much does the government "claim" this will save?

I can't help suspecting that the costs far outweigh the savings. But then we have a government who are good economic managers so there much be a huge saving that makes it worthwhile.

Advertising-the life blood of the Australan econom...


Advertising-the life blood of the Australan economy. What an unmitigated farce.