After 'Mediscare', time for a discussion on the Productivity Inquiry into human services

Amid all the concerns about the future of Medicare, incredibly the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into introducing competition, contestability and user choice into human services barely rated a mention during the recent federal election campaign.

It did however in a welcome in-depth 45 minute panel discussion hosted last Sunday on the ABC's Sunday Nights with John Cleary program which declared the inquiry "a foundational issue for the whole shape and future of Australia society".

Moderated by Cleary, the panel featured Social Policy Professor Paul Smyth and Wilma Gallet from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services.

You can listen to it at this link - it begins at the 12 minute mark.

From it, Paul Smyth says, you can:

Hear first hand of the socially destructive effects of the commodification of the public sphere we have already experienced through marketisation and discover why now is the time for not-for-profits and the public services to reinvigorate their irreplaceable roles as agents of the Common Good.

The broadcast came just days before the 25 July closing dates for submissions to the inquiry, which was announced in April by Treasurer Scott Morrison, who said:

The human services sector plays a vital role in the wellbeing of the Australian population and covers a diverse range of services, including health, education and community services.  Australia’s human services sector is facing significant challenges, including increasing demand for services due to the ageing population, the effect of technology and cost increases associated with new and more complex service provision demands.

Sound familiar?

In June, the Commission released this issues paper to assist individuals and organisations to prepare submissions to the inquiry. It contains and outlines:

  • the scope of the inquiry
  • the Commission’s procedures
  • matters about which the Commission is seeking comment and information
  • how to make a submission.

Power to Persuade agrees that the outcome of the inquiry will be critical to the future of Australian society and is coordinating the Social Service Futures dialogue to raise the level of public understanding and enable policy actors to engage more effectively. Please check out the many issues raised there, including whether the Productivity Commission is 'fit for purpose'.

Wilma Gallet and Paul Smyth are both contributors to that dialogue.