While we were talking about arsenic-based life last week, Andrew Bolt was on the radio and his blog spouting toxic rubbish about the world:

Doesn’t that say everything about modern government today: there’s a social worker on every street.

Yeah, social work services are over-provided. Sure they are.

Bolt was responding to the news that ONE of the Super Clinics has “opened” (as in, it’s opened its doors and started providing some services, but it’s not “officially opened” yet) but, due to a problem with the originally-planned GPs, there’s going to be a short delay of a few weeks while some new ones are sourced. In the meantime, there’s “a dietician and social workers” already present and providing services.


Which for some reason seems hilarious to Andrew and Steve Price, host of the program, and reminds them of an old Yes, Minister episode which isn’t really analogous at all. (The non-analogy is due to the fact that, unlike in that clip, nobody’s actually suggesting that this is an appropriate state, or that it’ll last very long; and in any case, the clinic is already providing services to patients, just not GP services.)

“You don’t know that patients are going to be treated at the Super Clinic”, says Bolt. Really? The story he linked to on his blog says that the expected delay before the GPs arrive is a few weeks.

“$25 million!” exclaims Steve Price. “Government waste!” Well, no Steve – that money hasn’t been “wasted” just because the GPs arrive a few weeks late.

Neither of them advise listeners of what services the social workers or dietician are providing, or why they’re risible. Nor do they put the story in context – how many Super Clinics have opened or are about to open, and in how many of those have there been a short-term staffing problem like in this one?

No – they portray the story as an example of the Super Clinics program being a debacle, something of which a Government actually providing improved services should, bizarrely, be ashamed. Bolt suggests that if we left it up to private enterprise, this sort of thing would never happen – and, if he meant that medical services would rarely expand in areas of high need but low profitability, he’d be right. Sadly, that’s not what he meant.

The beat-up is absurd if you read The Australian‘s article and actually think about it. But how many of MTR’s listeners will simply have let the misleading impression given by Price and Bolt sink into their subconscious, beyond the reach of critical thinking? That’s how it does the damage – building an erroneous impression, one badly-formed brick of misunderstanding at a time. Each such element can be countered with reason, but together they can construct an obstacle past which rational thought is unlikely to penetrate.

Which, of course, is why we try to counter it as it’s being built.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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