Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
In 1919, Dr J. Corbin, an Adelaide lodge doctor, published a vehement attack on the effects of private medicine on Australian health care. He contrasted the manner in which:
the lodge patient consults his medical attendant before he is gravely ill. The private patient either consults no-one or takes some quack medicine or a prescription from a chemist and it is not until he is seriously ill that he seeks medical advice.
This does not apply to the really well-to-do, but to the intermediate class, to whom economy is essential, and this class forms the largest part of any community, and is the class which is most likely to be benefited by a scheme of national insurance. The very poor and destitute are well provided for; the very rich can pay for any skill or advice; it is the intermediate class that is always sure to suffer.
Support for national insurance spanned the conservative parties, academic economists and participants in the forums of the Australian Institute of Political Science as well as sections of the labour movement. Contributory insurance schemes were at the heart of a programme to bolster social solidarity as well as individual financial security. Faced with the threat of class conflict, yet hostile to the social inequities of uncontrolled capitalism, liberals embraced schemes which appealed to a higher notion of community.