I quit smoking 40-odd years ago, aged 11, and haven’t looked back. That surely qualifies me to offer a suggestion or two on finishing off the tobacco industry. It all happened the day my grandmother sprung me with a lighted Cambridge in my mouth, in the garage on a rainy day. The ensuing tongue-lashing was more than sufficient to nip my dreams of accelerated manhood clean in the bud.
So I suggest the Federal Government could do far worse than mobilise the Grey Army to the cause. Deploy a platoon of grannies armed with sticks and megaphones on suburban streets across the nation, and just watch British American Tobacco shares head south in quick order. Taking a queue from Victoria, they could be called Pleural Service Officers (PSOs). And believe me, they wouldn’t need guns.
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.