Doctor and activist

Charity, Government and Institutions

The comedian Celeste Barbour set out to raise $30,000 for fire relief and people gave $51 million. She was going to give it to the Rural Fire Service. It turns out that the. RFS is basically a government-funded body which buys fire equipment, and had received rather less than recommended in the run up to this year’s catastrophic blazes. Its Foundation exists to give it money.

But Celeste had not looked at the fine print and now charitable monies will mostly be buying what the government should have bought.

Some months ago, I was asked to help crowd fund a refugee who was going to study at Wollongong TAFE. Heroic stuff. But a few years ago, TAFE was free, so the crowd is funding one of the thousands who the government used to fund.
During the recent COVID19 crisis Bill Crewes, an impeccable Uniting Church minister who runs a soup kitchen and troubled kids catch-up programme in Ashfield asked for money. I gave him some as I direct my Workers’ Comp and CTP patients there when the insurers refuse to pay them and they have nothing to eat.

Today the Uniting Church appealed to the government to give some of the unused $60 billion that was budgeted for Jobseeker payments to refugees and 457 Visa holders who have lost their jobs and are not eligible for welfare.
So just as we are funding the TAFE education that used to be free, and the soup kitchen for those who the government has chosen to exclude from the welfare safety net, so Celeste Barbour finds the money she raised to help fire victims is being used to replace the government’s fire brigade equipment budget.

Let us consider the non-government institutions. Insurers in the Christchurch earthquake were much and justly criticised for their niggardly approach. They were slow to pay, redefined ‘repaired’ and wriggled out of paying as much as they could. The government insurance system, the ERC (Earthquake Recovery Commission) had been set up after an earthquake in the 1990s and was somewhat criticised for its allocation of money to victims, but was far more fair and cost-effective than the private insurers. There is no ERC in Australia, and insurers are likely to do the same thing here.
In the non-crisis situation Bill Crewes feeds people that the welfare system seems to have missed out on, and who the insurers choose not to pay. No one polices the insurers’ denials, and no one notices the government’s lack of housing, and Centrelink’s bureaucratic denials.

We can praise charity and give to it, but we must not let the government, nor the private insurers cheers us on, while walking away from their responsibilities. The idea of government is to set u p a societal framework which looks after people. We should not rely on capricious philanthropists and well intentioned charities to clean up problems that society should identify, quantify and rectify through its governance and institutions.

www.smh.com.au/…/court-rules-51-million-rfs-donation-cannot…The extraordinary sum was raised on Facebook by comedian Celeste Barber during the bushfire crisis.About This Websitesmh.com.auCourt rules $51 million RFS donation cannot be distributed to other charitiesThe extraordinary sum was raised on Facebook by comedian Celeste Barber during the bushfire crisis.

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