Medicare was born not long before our eldest child. At the first consultation with the doctor managing my wife’s pregnancy, he wryly directed us to take the receipt to the “Mediocre-care” office. He added with wistful regret that the epithet was not of his own devising. From the other side of the desk however, the fledgling service seemed OK. We barely noticed the queue, pocketed the takings and went home happy. Until recently little of substance had changed.
But age afflicts some more prematurely than others, it seems. Our son has just turned a spritely thirty. At the same age Medicare has seen much better days. Arthritis is plainly evident; rigor mortis beckons. It’s all happened so quickly, thanks it seems to the Federal Government’s latter day passion for service cohabitation. On my last visit to a Medicare office I was in and out, queue and all, in 5 minutes. The other day I called in at the new digs, where Medicare and Centrelink have shacked up. The care was less than mediocre, the queue 20 minutes at least.
The electoral demographics of this will be something to watch. 30-minute queues in Centrelink offices are de rigueur for many migrants, the disabled and disadvantaged generally, and some sectors of the shrinking ‘middle Australia’. But it’s somehow hard to picture a Collins Street tycoon keeping the Bentley purring outside Centrelink whilst queuing with the bogans for a Medicare refund. Enough to make the bowler hat wilt, I reckon. Let’s see what happens come election time.