the Coalition plan to spend $1.5bn on mental health - should they win the election - is "crazy". According to the opinion polls and the political pundits the Coalition has no hope of winning the election so cynics might even say that the plan is meaningless and that the Coalition is only saying it because they know they will not have to implement it.
Even if that is the case however it says a great deal about what the ALP believes is important. Why? Because they would prefer to spend the same money on setting up an electronic record of everyone's medical records. What it will amount to is a de-facto identity card - which is something the government would very much like to have.
Using medical records to obtain something like this is not just stupid, it is downright dangerous.
Doctor-patient confidentiality is already compromised by a range of reporting requirements, not all of them related to public safety. Any electronic record keeping is liable to be accessed by others. There is no computer in the world which is safe from hackers and there are many people out there who would find the medical records of others were of great commercial value.
There would also be nothing to prevent the government opening up, or partially opening up, the records on the grounds of making budget decisions or deciding future strategies. I have no doubt it would be made to sound perfectly reasonable and that the reasons given would sound quite plausible along with the promises of confidentiality. All of that is utter nonsense of course.
Our health records will simply become public property.
So then there would be two more issues, the first is that a doctor will not feel free to say precisely what he or she thinks in case notes. I have no doubt mine probably say something like "obstreperous cat who dislikes taking her medicine and does not listen to my advice". Will my nice GP even feel he can say "difficult patient"? What if it becomes public and I sue for defamation? Is he going to be protected? What if I am a high profile figure and I want to keep a medical condition quiet? Will the doctor feel able to write about that knowing that someone will be all too keen to hack into records and dig up the dirt on me? Of course it can still happen but electronic records are just going to make it easier. All that assumes that an individual actually goes to see a doctor and that the doctor keeps an accurate record of what occurs between them.
What of those who do not?
It is difficult enough trying to help those with serious mental health issues, the homeless and those who wander from one place to another. There are already far too many of them and they need help but the new system will add another group as well. These are the people who delay seeing a doctor for any number of reasons but often because they do not want anyone else to know there is anything wrong or they fear authority of any sort. This is particularly true of some migrants who have come from less stable countries or countries where some medical issues are culturally taboo. If they already fear the consequences of going to a doctor then the notion that their medical records will be able to be accessed by someone other than the doctor is going to make them even less likely to go.
In the end it seems that what will happen is that there will be a greater rather than lesser number of people who should have sought help earlier. It will cost but the government will have access to our most personal details. The power that will allow them to have over us is potentially enormous and that is why they want to do it. It would be "crazy" for them not to do it. Who needs to spend money on mental health when they have a means of controlling the entire population?
I await my micro-chip.