Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

My father's freedom to be gay

Meegan Cornforth

06 March 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre

Sydney is busy gearing up for the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras this weekend. This vibrant celebration of homosexuality is a mark of the freedom we now have in Australia to choose whom and how we love and express ourselves. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is a fairly recent development in our history, and that we still have quite some way to go in appreciating that tolerance is one of the hallmarks of a free society.

Less than 10 years ago, my father was savagely attacked by a group of homophobic young men for the crime of being a late-in-life homosexual. My sister and I only learned of the attack some weeks later when he was in hospital in intensive care for an unrelated condition-alerted by a kind nurse who felt that we should know what had happened to our elegantly spoken, quiet, chess-loving father.

He had practiced Judo at black belt level for many years and was too humiliated to tell his daughters that at the age of 71, and after a stroke, he had been unable to defend himself against a group of jackbooted thugs hell bent on hate crime. He sustained broken ribs and massive bruising to his torso, which was still black and blue when he was admitted to hospital. He died in intensive care so we were never able to discuss the attack with him.

In the late 1960s, my father felt obligated to marry and give the outward appearance of heterosexuality, and thus morality and acceptability in the eyes of society and the law. Decriminalisation of homosexuality did not begin in Australia until the mid-1970s, a few years after my parents married and after my sister and I were born. Tasmania only repealed its sodomy laws in 1997-under duress from the federal government and United Nations.

Having repressed his authentic self for most of his life, my father’s final few years of freedom after coming out were a joy and relief to him (the attack notwithstanding) and he was happier than I had ever known him to be.

We may have the freedom to celebrate homosexuality today in Australia but many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East still hold consensual homosexual sex as a criminal offence, attracting the death penalty is some cases.

While Mardi Gras was too flamboyant and loud for my conservative father’s tastes, I know he felt great pride in being open and free to be himself.

So, happy Mardi Gras, Australia. Let’s not take our freedoms for granted.


The Iron Law of Medicare

06 March 2015

ideas-2 The Abbott Government has finally ditched the $5 GP co-payment. This comes in the same week that the latest Intergenerational Report has once again warned about the budgetary consequences of the rising cost of Medicare.  

Regardless of the pressures health expenditure will place on federal finances in an ageing Australia, the Prime Minister has said that the plan to introduce a modest amount of cost-sharing for GP services is 'dead, buried and cremated.'  
Advocates of a 'free and universal' health system will undoubtedly rejoice. But inconsistencies across the health system persist, including the co-payments for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, especially the $6.90 per script paid by concession card holders. Also contradictory is Medicare Levy Surcharge which, by forcing higher income earners to take out private health insurance to gain an exemption, is a de-facto Medicare means test.  
The overarching hypocrisy remains the fact that a 'free' health system isn't free. It has to be funded by governments that have to choose between competing priorities when deciding how to allocate scare resources.  
These decisions involve opportunity costs. That health spending crowds out other government activity is lost on those who argue that political considerations should dictate health policy because the Australian people 'regard universal health care as a right.'
What needs to be factored in to the health debate is that the so-called 'right to Medicare' involves trading off other important 'rights', such as:

  • The right to affordable housing and getting to work – Since the inception of Medicare in 1984, the ever-increasing cost of the 'free' public hospital system has consumed higher proportions of State government budgets. This has lead to cut backs or under-investment in other key areas such as housing and transport infrastructure. Longer travel times due to congestion, and higher house prices due to lack of land release, are the results.
  • The right to chronic care – Medicare is primarily a fee-for-service payment system for medical services, which also provides access to hospital care subject to waiting times for many treatments. What Medicare does not do is provide full courses of treatment, including allied health services and medications, for patients with chronic conditions. Like hospital waiting lists, this is a form of rationing, or restricting the availability of services, to offset the high cost of providing 'free' GP and other medical care to all comers.  In order to receive all beneficial care, many chronically-ill patients face high out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The right not to beggar future generations – Pay-As-You-Go taxpayer-funded health systems such as Medicare were created during an era when health care was relatively cheap and basic. The increased sophistication of modern medicine, combined with longevity (increased life-spans), is remorselessly driving up health costs. This will impose considerable burdens on the smaller proportion of the population that is of working age in the years ahead, who will face either higher taxes, or cuts to other services, or both, to pay for Medicare. This may mean that future generations will not enjoy rising living standards at the same rate as previous generations.

The rights we don't have because of the right to universal health care might be termed the Iron Law of Medicare: a government big enough to give you free health services, is too big to give you many important things you need.


Jeremy SammutDr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.

Anti-Semitism is much older than Israel

Peter Kurti

06 March 2015 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

‘Harry Potter’ star Miriam Margolyes has form. Noted for her vehement anti-Israel views, the Jewish actress didn’t hold back when she appeared on Monday night’s Q&A.

Asked to explain the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and also in Australia, Margoyles had her answer ready to hand: it is all because of Israel and what it is doing to defend itself in Gaza.

According to Margolyes, people associate Israel with Jews, and Jews are killing innocent people. Therefore the actions of Israel makes people hate Jews.

Stop the killing, she seems to think, and the Jew-hatred will stop too.

It’s nonsense. Jews were hated long before the state of Israel was lawfully created in 1948 with the endorsement of the United Nations. Since then, Israel has had to defend itself against Arab states pledged to keep the hatred alive.

Palestinians have also long been relentless enemies of Israel. Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, more than 11,000 rockets have been fired from there into Israel.

Hamas was elected the governing party. Its charter commits Hamas to destroy Israel and murder Jews, and it counts on the support of Iran which has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.
Many celebrities and fashionable intellectuals in the West are also determined to destroy Israel. Their weapon of choice is not the Qassam rocket but economic sanctions.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched in 2005 by 171 Palestinian NGOs to force Israel to comply “with its obligations under international law.”

BDS claims to focus on Israel’s abuse of power and not on Jewish people or Judaism but the campaign objectives show this is not a nuanced critique of Israeli government policy. Instead it is a sustained attack on the very existence of the State of Israel itself.

Of course, BDS defenders like to point out that Jews like Miriam Margolyes are also questioning Israel’s legitimacy. So how can BDS be anti-Semitic?  But claiming that Jewish support somehow sanctifies BDS paints nothing more than a thin veneer of moral respectability over an ancient toxic bigotry.

Whatever form it takes today, whether physical attack or economic strangulation, there is an old name for this bigotry: anti-Semitism – the hatred of Jews.

And this hatred is alive once more. Israel’s policy in Gaza is just an excuse and not the cause. BDS activists, Muslim leaders and Islamist tyrants are all standing shoulder to shoulder against the Jews.

By trying to explain anti-Semitism away, Miriam Margolyes only legitimises the new and heightened dangers faced by Jews in Europe and around the world.


Rev Peter Kurti is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies.