Universal Dental Care: Is Being “A Lucky Country Run By Second-Rate People” The Reason Australia Doesn’t Have It?

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Universal Dental Care: Is Being “A Lucky Country Run By Second-Rate People” The Reason Australia Doesn’t Have It?

  1. Home
  2. Dental Articles
  3. General Dentistry Articles
  4. Universal Dental Care: Is Being “A Lucky Country Run By Second-Rate People” The Reason Australia Doesn’t Have It?
Universal Dental Care Is Being “A Lucky Country Run By Second Rate People” The Reason Australia Doesn’t Have It? In New Gisborne At New Gisborne Dental House
Australia was called ‘The Lucky Country’ as an ironic statement. Yet the same simpletons who inhabited the land missed the point and lauded themselves as the fortunate beneficiaries being recognised. Nuance and the finer aspects of life have long escaped the majority of Australians. This island continent has been carved out on the back of a squattocracy killing off the natives and their descendants deriding the survivors as backward savages ever since. Is being “A lucky country run by second-rate people” The reason Australia doesn’t have universal dental care?

“The phrase ‘the lucky country’, originated by author Donald Horne in 1964, has been used in the past few decades to describe Australia as a land of economic opportunity and bountiful natural resources. In fact, the author always intended the phrase to be used in an ironic sense, to point to what he saw as a lazy derivative society lacking innovation and enterprise. Australians were simply riding to prosperity on the sheep’s back, enjoying their country’s natural advantages in the wool industry.”

Colonial backwaters like Australia rarely attracted the best of us. Indeed, it was often sons well down the pecking order who came over to try their luck down under. Charles Dickens had a dozen or so children and two of them made their way to Australia in the 19C in search of their fortune. This wide brown land was an alien landscape for Anglophiles from the mother country.

Medibank, Medicare, & Why No Dental Care

“The prevailing wisdom is that when the Whitlam Government put Medibank (the precursor to Medicare) forward in 1974, dental care was not included because of cost and politics – the battle with doctors’ groups opposed the new health-care insurance plan was difficult enough without taking on dental groups too. There is, however, little to no evidence on the extent to which the Whitlam government pushed for dental to be included or how much it was opposed by dentists. It seems it was not on the agenda when Medicare was restored by the Hawke government.

Financial issues aside, there are two likely reasons dental wasn’t included.

Firstly, medicine and dentistry remain isolated practices that have never been treated the same way by the healthcare system, health insurance funds, policymakers and the public. Despite all the evidence on the importance of oral health, too often it is seen as merely a “nice-to-have”.

Secondly, the provision of public dental health services – often linked to dental hospitals and dental schools – has long been seen (especially by Coalition governments) as the responsibility of states and territories. These services have always been directed at children, low-income adults, and defined disadvantaged groups.

Social Welfare Is Not A Dirty Word

Robert Menzies had led Australia as a Liberal Party Prime Minister for 18 years with no universal health care initiative on the drawing board, let alone one that included dental care. Menzies is remembered for fighting a union ban on exporting scrap iron to Japan in 1939. They called him ‘Pig Iron Bob’. The Japanese went on to bomb Pearl Harbour and Darwin in WW2 killing many Australians and imprisoning thousands more under dreadful conditions. The right wing Coalition governments have long promoted ‘user pays’ type policies and attacked state welfare as evil manifestations of socialist ideology. Indeed, Medicare is always in the crosshairs of the most virulent LNP ideologies but its popularity with Australians makes it politically ineradicable. However, the Coalition looks to the US for inspiration, where ‘user pays’ policies bedevil health, education, and most of American life. Billionaires making oligarchic style profits at the expense of the working people means that health insurance and medical bills frequently bankrupt ordinary Americans. Obamacare is attempting to provide more cover for the working poor but Trump GOP forces are constantly threatening to dismantle it. Student debt in the US is around $1.7 trillion.

A Country Lucky Not To Be America

Australia is, in comparison to the US, in some ways a fortunate country because of a few far sighted Labor leaders like Whitlam, Hawke, and Keating. Social welfare is a sign of a civilised and caring society operating within a national framework. The Scandinavian nations are a great example of this. It is not, as the Robodebt debacle initiated by the Coalition revealed, some sort of moral failure. Robodebt falsely accused 500, 000 Australians of being welfare cheats and forced them to repay large amounts of money they didn’t owe to Centrelink. Several vulnerable individuals took their own lives in despair over the accusations. In a settled class action it has cost the government and Australian tax payers $1.8 billion to repay those falsely accused people. Scott Morrison was at the heart of this, as a self-declared Robocop going after the welfare cheats. This was an ideological crusade lasting some 6 years, which was accompanied by a nasty media campaign. Ministers’ Morrison, Abbott, Robert, Payne, and Tudge encouraged Australians to believe that a substantial coterie were rorting the system as welfare cheats. There was no evidence for this and repeated investigations found little to no fraud. PwC the consultants were involved in Robodebt reviews. Downward envy is a term used to describe when middle class folk vent their frustrations upon those lower down the material ladder than themselves. Dole bludgers, Aborigines, and refugees are popular targets in this regard in Australia. It is predicated on the frustrations of hard working folk getting pissed off with anyone they think is gaming the system at their expense. The Coalition employs this in their kit bag of political stratagems to attract support via the politics of grievance.

Universal Dental Care Is Being “A Lucky Country Run By Second Rate People” The Reason Australia Doesn’t Have It? At New Gisborne In New Gisborne Dental House
Universal Dental Care

“Depending who you ask, expanding Medicare to include dental services will cost the federal government an extra $5.6b to $7.5b per year. But this doesn’t account for the potential savings in healthcare costs due to preventable dental issues, which the Australian Dental Association estimates at $818 million per year. It also ignores the impact on productivity. And implementing such a scheme would require increases in the Medicare levy, increased taxation, and/or cuts to the private health insurance rebate.”
Compare Club

Billions For Submarines But Not For Universal Dental Care

Australia is in the early stages of spending some $368 billion on a submarine program over the next 20 to 30 years. These very expensive weapons carriers will patrol our coastline and the South China Sea. This was a Morrison LNP initiative, which is being carried on by the current Albanese federal government. Defence of the nation always boasts a hefty price tag in comparison with other government funded programs. Carrying a big stick is considered far worthier than looking after the teeth of the citizenry, it seems.

Private Wealth vs Public Good

In many ways the political fight for the future of Australia is over private wealth vs public good. The conservative forces back the desire for private wealth among the citizenry over investment in public services. User pays is their preferred way forward – those that can afford it get to access the services. The Coalition of Liberal and National Parties besmirch taxation as an evil perpetuated by wasteful governments. The politics of grievance pillories social welfare as the disease produced by high taxing regimes. The push toward private education over state education by starving the state system of funds and the best students has been well under way for decades in Australia. The introduction of fee paying for higher education further divides society into haves and have nots.

“Consistent with the findings of our Inequality in Australia 2020 report, wealth is still very unequally distributed in 2021-22. * The highest 10% of households by wealth has an average of $6.1 million or 46% of all wealth. *The next 30% have an average of $1.7 million or 38% of all wealth. * That leaves the majority – the lower 60% – with $376,000 or just 17% of all wealth.”
Poverty & Inequality

The Lucky Country For A Few

Is being “A lucky country run by second-rate people” The reason Australia doesn’t have universal dental care? ‘She’ll be right mate!’ is the credo of the lucky country. This fatalistic cry for the status quo could be the unsung jingle for a Coalition political ad. Steering the ship for those looking out for themselves means no progressive policy initiatives and a don’t rock the boat ethos. This is the evidence left by the Menzies and Morrison governments – not much happens but the rich get richer and those at the top do even better. The figures don’t lie. Universal dental care would cost much less than the Stage 3 tax cuts, but don’t hold your breath Australia.

“For comparison, in the lead up to the 2022-23 October Budget, the Treasurer noted that the Stage 3 tax cuts were estimated to cost around $41 billion over the then forward estimates period (to 2025-26), and around $254 billion over the then medium term (to 2032-33).”
Australian Treasury


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