Sometimes our politicians get it wrong. Sometimes it’s as a result of misinformation, sometimes ignorance. Other times it’s due to cost saving mechanisms, and sometimes it’s in an effort to stimulate the economy.
The ramifications of getting it significantly wrong are often tragic. One dramatic example would have to be the pink batts fiasco, where in an effort to promote economic stimulus – common sense failed. Despite good intentions, we saw that in an effort to create profits, corners were cut and lives were endangered.
In what can only be described as another tragic scenario, the government made the decision to outsource the administration of the 1800RESPECT service to a private health insurer. I suspect this decision was also based on some kind of sound financial principle, but it is yet another decision which lacks common sense.
Lives again have been endangered, for the sake of making a buck. It is another decision based on paper and profit, and not on people.
The government effectively introduced a ‘middle-man’ to administer the 1800RESPECT counselling service. It came about because Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, who have historically run the service, had the audacity to ask for more funding, so they could respond to the thousands of calls a year that were still going unanswered. They asked for funding to help more survivors of rape and domestic violence in their time of need.
Instead of supporting a long-standing service to expand and meet a desperate need – some ‘genius’, (likely some ministerial staffer who’d read a few briefing papers) came up with the idea to provide the funding to a private health insurance company, that needs to turn profits.
The government thereby empowered the MHS to review every call, and created a call centre to act as a triage to decide which women calling the centre deserved to have access to the experienced counsellors manning the phones at the RDVSA.
Imagine for a moment what it must be like to be in the position that you need the support of 1800RESPECT, and that actually, you had been working up the courage to make this call for months, or possibly years. Instead of getting a highly experienced and specially trained counsellor on the other end of the line, you instead get someone whose job is to basically screen calls.
Over the past 10 years I have got to know both the staff of RDVSA and the services they provide very well, and I believe they are a national treasure. How on earth did a middle aged, male solicitor from regional Queensland become a champion for an organisation set up in inner-city Sydney in the 1970’s by first wave feminists, you may ask? Let me tell you the story.